U.S. to Put Hypersonic Missiles on Warships as Russia Leads in Arms Race

The U.S. is planning to put hypersonic missiles on two guided missile destroyers next year, according to reports.

A new global arms race is underway to develop hypersonic missiles, which travel at between five and 25 times the speed of sound.

USNI News reports the installation of hypersonic missiles on two U.S. warships will take place in a Mississippi shipyard, near the town of Pascagoula.

The publication has seen a Naval Sea Systems Command pre-solicitation notice, indicating the work will be carried out on the USS Zumwalt and USS Michael Monsoor, at Ingalls Shipbuilding.

The notice reads: "The modernization scope of the effort will require specialized yard cranes for greater lift capacity, dry-dock facilities, covered assembly areas, and dedicated fabrication shops."

USS Zumwalt will get hypersonic missiles soon
The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) transits Naval Station Mayport Harbor on its way into port in Jacksonville, Florida on October 25, 2016. It is one of two missile-destroyers due to be fitted with hypersonic missiles. - / Handout/GETTY

Whilst no start date for the work is given Captain Matthew Schroeder, program manager for the Zumwalt class, told USNI News in March that the work is due to begin in October 2023.

The navy will reportedly strip USS Zumwalt and USS Michael Monsoor of their 155mm advanced gun system mounts, to make way for a vertical launch system for hypersonic missiles.

They have selected the Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB), a hypersonic missile in joint development by the Army, Navy and Air Force.

In March Captain Schroeder described the installation process, stating: "We are removing the guns, the upper and lower-gun rooms. That includes the loading system, the transfer carts, the ammo, etc.

"[We're] going down about five platforms to accommodate the height of the missile, which is significantly larger than other missiles in the inventory."

Earlier this year Russia completed testing for its new Zircon hypersonic cruise missile.

In July, at a navy day parade in St. Petersburg President Vladimir Putin announced the weapon will be given to the Russian navy within months.

He commented: "The delivery of these (missiles) to the Russian armed forces will start in the coming months.

"The Admiral Gorshkov frigate will be the first to go on combat duty with these formidable weapons on board."

Last year hypersonic missile tests by the Chinese military reportedly left U.S. authorities "stunned" at the rate of technical progress.

In March 2020 a hypersonic glide body was successfully tested by the U.S. Ministry of Defense in Hawaii.

The U.S. military is aiming for the weapons to become fully operational "in the early- to mid-2020s".

After the launch the Department of Defense (DOD) said: "The U.S. Navy and U.S. Army jointly executed the launch of a common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB), which flew at hypersonic speed to a designated impact point.

"Concurrently, the Missile Defense Agency monitored and gathered tracking data from the flight experiment that will inform its ongoing development of systems designed to defend against adversary hypersonic weapons.

"Information gathered from this and future experiments will further inform DOD's hypersonic technology development, and this event is a major milestone towards the department's goal of fielding hypersonic warfighting capabilities in the early- to mid-2020s."

Newsweek has contacted the Department of Defense for comment.