The U.S. Navy is planning to replace the deck gun of the Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers in the next few years with missile tubes to house hypersonic weapons.
In a conversation with Navy News, the service said "engineering planning efforts" have already started to replace the 155mm Advanced Gun Turrets (AGS) in the forward hull. This will free up space for Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells that will store hypersonic missiles. There was no word on how many VLS cells would be fitted into the front of the vessels. At the moment, there are two stealth destroyers operational and one more under construction.
"In FY2021, the U.S. Navy decided on replacing all of these 155mm AGS turrets with Hypersonic missile VLS tubes for the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) Hypersonic missile," Navy News said.
The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), the first of three 16,000-ton stealth destroyers, the service took delivery in 2020, just seven years late and plagued with problems, will be drydocked in 2024 to begin the retrofit construction. There was no mention of when the other destroyers would be drydocked for the retrofit.
Both the Army and Navy have been working on hypersonic weapon development. The services will use the same Common-Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) for their surface-launched hypersonic missiles. The range of the weapon is expected to be around 1,700 miles.
News of the stealth destroyers expected to receive hypersonic missiles in two years comes as the Financial Times published two reports (see: here & here) on China's hypersonic glide weapon that allegedly cruised around the world before nearly striking a target.
Our view is that the Zumwalt destroyer is outdated and spending hundreds of millions if not more on retrofitting VLS cells into the hull is a waste of taxpayers' money. At the same time, China can launch hypersonic weapons from space.
America's top military officer is beginning to realize the U.S. is falling behind in the hypersonic race with China.