The US Navy is moving ahead with plans to significantly reconfigure its DDG 1000 Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers to meet changed operational requirements and a new warfighting concept of operations in the Pacific theatre.
Central to this is the integration of a new hypersonic weapon system into the Zumwalt-class ships to confer a long-range prompt strike capability. Early work is also underway to scope the replacement of mission system components, including the ships’ combat system software and undersea warfare suite.
Originally conceived to meet requirements for a low-radar cross section, multi-mission surface combatant, the DDG 1000 programme comprises three Zumwalt-class ships – USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) and the future USS Lyndon B Johnson (DDG 1002) – built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine.
In November 2017, following a comprehensive review of Zumwalt-class requirements, the US Navy decided to refocus the primary mission of the DDG 1000 ships from land attack to offensive surface strike, with secondary missions to include undersea and surface warfare dominance.
Attendant to this reorientation, the navy is moving forward with plans to fast-track the integration of the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) hypersonic weapon system into the class. CPS is intended to deliver a hypersonic conventional offensive strike capability through a depressed boost-glide trajectory to prosecute deep-inland, time-critical, soft- and medium-hardened targets in contested environments.
Introducing the CPS into the DDG 1000 design will see the two 155mm AGS mountings removed, and a new Large Missile Vertical Launch System (LMVLS) installed. The LMVLS – using a CPS cold launch system common to the future Virginia Payload Module – is required because the Mk57 vertical launchers fitted to the Zumwalt-class ships are sized for Standard Missile and Tomahawk missiles and are thus too small to accommodate the CPS weapon system.
Installing and integrating the LMVLS represents a major structural change, entailing the installation of a new ‘ultra-module’ to be undertaken during a Dry-Docking Selected Restricted Availability (DSRA). NAVSEA in January 2023 awarded HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding division a US$10.5 million contract in support of modernisation period planning requirements for Zumwalt and Michael Monsoor. This includes planning, engineering, and management efforts to plan and sequence the upgrade of the two vessels during DSRA periods. The US Navy is required to start the 20-month DDG 1000 modernisation period in October 2023 to complete by June 2025, execute training and weapons embarkation, and then complete CPS live fire tests in the fourth quarter of FY2025.
Michael Monsoor is required to commence its modernisation period at Pascagoula in FY2026, with completion in FY2028. The intention is that the installation of CPS will follow for DDG 1002 within that vessel’s scheduled DSRA window.
Separate to the CPS installation, the US Navy is also considering plans that would see key Zumwalt-class MSE components swapped out for command and sensor systems common to other US surface combatants.