Zumwalt to Receive Hypersonic Weapons – This week, the Russian Navy has been conducting naval exercises involving the Northern Fleet frigate Admiral Gorshkov, which was deployed to the Norwegian Sea as part of a naval task force under the command of Northern Fleet Missile Ships Division Commander Captain 1st Rank Oleg Gladky. What was especially notable about the recent deployment of the frigate is that it is armed with the nuclear-capable Tsirkon hypersonic missiles, capable of hitting the British Isles.
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That makes the small warship one of the most powerful vessels in President Vladimir Putin‘s arsenal.
However, the United States Navy could have as capable – and arguably even more powerful – of a warship as efforts will soon be underway to modernize the first two Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyers that will include the installation of hypersonic missile launchers.
Ingalls Shipbuilding, a unit of HII, was awarded a $10.5 million contract for the initial modernization work, the Pentagon announced earlier this month. Ingalls has been contracted to complete the planning portion of the modernization period for USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) and USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) by December.
The work will be conducted at the company’s facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
“Ingalls is honored to have been selected to deliver this new capability with our Navy and industry partners,” Ingalls Shipbuilding President Kari Wilkinson said via a statement last Friday. “Our shipbuilders stand ready to do what is necessary to enable our fleet in the protection of peace around the world.”
HII had previously invested nearly $1 billion in the infrastructure, facility, and toolsets at its Ingalls Shipbuilding to enable the work of Ingalls’ shipbuilders, which will improve product flow and process efficiency, and enhance product quality, the company added.
New Role For the Zumwalt
Last summer, the U.S. Navy announced that its Navy Strategic Systems Programs had awarded a $22.8 million contract to Lockheed Martin Space Systems to integrate hypersonic weapons aboard the three Zumwalt-class destroyers.
The defense contractor will provide missile production long-lead materials, program management, and system engineering for the Navy Conventional Prompt Strike Weapon System Platform-Specific Development and Production project.
In addition, the two massive 155mm Advanced Gun Systems aboard the trio of destroyers – which include DDG 1000, DDG 1001, and the USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002) – will be completely removed. That will supersede a former plan that had called for leaving the AGS in place.
It will require significant modification to the three destroyers.
The 16,000-ton Zumwalt-class destroyers are already equipped with a state-of-the-art electric propulsion system, wave-piercing tumblehome hull, and stealth design.
These improvements will see the addition of at least two sets of missile tubes inserted on the port and starboard sides of the ships. The conventional prompt strike (CPS) concept will extend the long-range strike capability for the U.S. Navy, as the hypersonic missiles would be able to strike nearly any target in the world in less than an hour.
However, the focus would remain on attacking high-value or fleeting targets with extremely fast hypersonic weapons, which can fly faster than five times the speed of sound.
Once updated, the Zumwalt-class destroyers will be capable of performing a range of deterrence, power projection, sea control, and command and control missions while allowing the U.S. Navy to evolve with new systems and missions.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.