The first U.S. Navy warfighting vessels to be armed with hypersonic missiles will be the stealth Zumwalt-class destroyers, the service’s top admiral said, according to USNI News.
While the Navy was expected to field hypersonic weaponry on its cruise-missile submarines first, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments event Tuesday that the service intended to start with the Zumwalts.
“Our biggest R&D effort is in hypersonics — to deliver that capability in 2025 on a surface ship and then on Block V [Virginia-class] submarines,” Gilday said, adding that fielding hypersonic weaponry aboard the Zumwalt-class destroyers would be an “important move” toward turning these ships into strike platforms.
The Zumwalt-class destroyers were designed to fight in littoral waters, carrying out land-attack and naval-fire support missions. Their primary weapon was to be the Advanced Gun System, consisting of a pair of 155 mm guns.
But a reduction in the size of the class from a few dozen ships to just three caused the cost of the Long Range Land Attack Projectile to jump to almost one million dollars a round, forcing the Navy to reevaluate its armaments and missions.
The Navy’s three Zumwalt-class destroyers — the USS Zumwalt, USS Michael Monsoor, and the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson — are expected to be blue-water surface-warfare and naval-strike platforms instead.