A Mississippi shipyard is set to install the first long range hypersonic weapons on a U.S. warship in an upcoming repair period, USNI News has learned.
According to a Friday pre-solicitation notice from Naval Sea Systems Command, the Navy has selected Ingalls Shipbuilding for a dry-dock period for guided-missile destroyers USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001).
“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,” reads the notice.
“Use of an alternative source, other than HII, would result in unacceptable ship and program schedule delays and would produce adverse impacts to the DDG 1000/1001 operational requirements.”
While the notice didn’t give dates for the availability, Capt. Matthew Schroeder, DDG-1000 program manager with Program Executive Office, Ships, told USNI News in March that the repair period to upgrade Zumwalt with hypersonic weapons was scheduled to start in October 2023.
Earlier this year, USNI News reported the Navy would remove the two 155mm Advanced Gun System mounts aboard each ship to install tubes that would accommodate the Vertical Launch System for the Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) developed for the Army, Air Force and the Navy. A source familiar with the availability told USNI News the period outlined in the Friday notice would include removing the AGS mounts.
The 16,000-ton ships were built around the AGS that extend several levels below the bow of the ship, where the magazines are for the rocket-launched Long Range Land Attack Projectile. The Navy backed away from the concept after the cancellation of the LRLAP program in 2016. In 2017, the service announced a mission shift for the ships as blue water surface combatants instead of naval surface fire support platforms.
USNI News first reported in March that the Navy intends to remove the gun mounts to accommodate the new hypersonic weapons.
“We are removing the guns, the upper and lower gun rooms. That includes the loading system, the transfer carts, the ammo, etc.,” Schroeder told USNI News in the March interview. “[We’re] going down about five platforms to accommodate the height of the missile, which is significantly larger than other missiles in the inventory.”
NAVSEA did not say how many tubes the Navy would install aboard the ships, but USNI News understands the arrangement would be similar to the Multiple All-up-round Canisters (MAC) system developed for Navy submarines to allow them to field multiple missiles in a single tube.
Removing AGS and replacing it with the tubes would leave about the same margins for growth, Schroeder told USNI News in March.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said last year that the Zumwalts would be the first platform to field hypersonics ahead of the planned inclusion of the weapons on the submarine force.
“Zumwalt gave us an opportunity to get [hypersonics] out faster and to be honest with you I need a solid mission for Zumwalt,” Gilday told USNI News during an interview earlier this year.
HII has positioned itself for more ship repair work at their Ingalls yard in Pascagoula. The Navy selected Ingalls for the repair work for the damaged USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and as the yard to perform the combat systems activation for the third Zumwalt-class ship, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002).