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U.S. Navy seeks a way to arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypersonic missiles

U.S. Navy seeks a way to arm Zumwalt destroyers with hypersonic missiles
The U.S. Navy is seeking input on installation of hypersonic missiles on its three DDG-1000-class destroyers like the USS Zumwalt, pictured. Photo by PO3 Emilline Senn/U.S. Navy

March 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy is seeking manufacturers to help integrate hypersonic missiles aboard its three Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers.

The Navy's Strategic Systems Program offered a "sources sought notice" last week on government websites, an announcement to find companies capable of submitting proposals for the narrowly-defined project.

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The branch is looking to bundle hypersonic missiles, which can travel at speeds near 5,000 miles per hour, into Advance Payload Modules -- consisting of three missiles each -- to be installed on the three destroyers.

Called the Navy Conventional Prompt Strike Weapon System Platform-Specific Development and Production project, it would involve arming the USS Zumwalt, USS Lyndon B. Johnson and the USS Michael Monsoor -- all multi-mission stealth vessels which focus on land attacks -- with secondary roles of surface, anti-aircraft and naval support warfare.

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The contracting notice calls for "technical leadership, integration, coordination, and system engineering across the CPS program for successful integration of the Conventional Prompt Strike weapon system on to the Zumwalt-class destroyers platform."

The request, issued Friday for technological advice on accomplishing the goal, rather than for proposals, was first reported by The Drive and MilitaryAerospace.com.

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Although the notice does not offer a timeline for decisions about arming the vessels with hypersonic weapons, it mentions April 2 as the deadline for submission of ideas.

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The Navy said it seeks companies to serve as program managers, with adequate testing and production capabilities.

Current U.S. hypersonic missile development centers on missiles about 34 inches in diameter and carrying an unpowered boost-glide vehicle with a warhead.

Rocket boosters propel the vehicle to the desired speed and altitude, after which the glide vehicle descends in an unpredictable pattern to the target.

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The Navy's plans for these hypersonic weapons involve installing the systems on Virginia-class, guided-missile submarines.

The missiles are wider than the dimensions of the Mk57 Vertical Launch Systems of the Zumwalts, suggesting that additional space would need to be found to install new launching tubes.

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