USS Zumwalt to be retrofitted with hypersonic missiles

The mighty USS Zumwalt has finally arrived at the Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to begin works on replacing her guns for hypersonic missile tubes.
Christopher McFadden
USS Zumwalt is back in the news again.

US Navy/Wikimedia Commons 

The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is back in the news, with yet another obstacle to overcome. However, this time it is to make her even deadlier as she is scheduled to replace her guns with hypersonic missile tubes, USNI News reports. The ship arrived at the Ingalls shipyards in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on Saturday (August 19, 2023) to start the two-year process that the US Navy wants to be completed by 2025.

Guns for hypersonics

“USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) arrived in Pascagoula, Miss., today to enter a modernization period and receive technology upgrades including the integration of the Conventional Prompt Strike weapon system,” explains a statement from the Navy provided to USNI News.“The upgrades will ensure Zumwalt remains one of the most technologically advanced and lethal ships in the US Navy," it continues.

“To the crew and families of the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), we would like to extend the warmest welcome to the newest members of our shipyard community. It is an honor for us to serve you and the Navy by doing this important work,” Ingalls president Kari Wilkinson said in another statement.

The warship weighing 16,000 tons, docked at Ingalls Shipbuilding to replace the 155mm Advanced Gun Systems twin with four 87-inch missile tubes. Each tube will hold three Common Hypersonic Glide Bodies (C-HGB) for twelve missiles on the ship. C-HGB is a hypersonic missile developed jointly by the US Army and Navy.

The Department of Defense is developing multiple conventional prompt strike platforms like the C-HGB to target any location in the world without warning. Additionally, the Navy intends to upgrade USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) and USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) at Ingalls. The former is in San Diego, while the latter is undergoing combat system installation and activation at the yard.

The Navy originally planned to deploy the destroyer with the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) to support troops ashore. Still, the cost of the rounds became unaffordable when the class was reduced to three ships. To this end, the Navy has decided to install hypersonic weapons on USS Zumwalt and shifted its focus from close to shore to blue water. “We’re talking about deploying this system on DDG-1000 in 2025, that’s three years from now,” Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, the head of the Navy’s strategic systems programs, told reporters at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium in November 2022.

Tubes, no missiles

However, there are doubts about whether the missiles will be ready to be installed once the works are complete. “The CPS program office noted that significant scope and challenges associated with the first-time integration of CPS may present risks to achieving DDG 1000’s installation schedule. In reviewing CPS program office information on critical technologies, we found that significant work remains for the program to demonstrate technology maturity,” reads a Government Accountability Office report released in June.

“If the hypersonic weapon is not ready for integration on the DDG 1000 at the time of the aforementioned maintenance period, the Navy may have to extend the duration of the planned maintenance period or wait for the next scheduled period to incorporate the system on the ship," the report adds.

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