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San Diego-based destroyer USS Zumwalt to be outfitted with new hypersonic missiles

Guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) steams through the Pacific Ocean, April 9. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

The San Diego-based destroyer USS Zumwalt has arrived at a shipyard in Mississippi where it will become the first American warship outfitted with hypersonic missiles, new weapons that are extremely hard to defend against.

Defense analysts say it is difficult to predict the flight path of these long-range missiles, which are also highly maneuverable and capable of traveling upwards of five times the speed of sound.

China claims that it already has developed hypersonic missiles that could be effectively used in the Indo-Pacific against American aircraft carriers, including the three homeported in San Diego.

The Zumwalt, a first-in-class stealth destroyer, will be upgraded with Lockheed Martin hypersonics at the Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Pascagoula. The Navy says field testing of the missiles is likely to begin in 2025.

The non-nuclear weapons also will be installed on the USS Michael Monsoor, another San Diego-based Zumwalt-class destroyer, as well as Virginia-class submarines.

The hypersonics upgrade represents a major mission change for Zumwalt destroyers, which were originally designed to fire more conventional weapons.

Comings, goings: Naval Base San Diego will soon gain a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The USS Jack H. Lucas will be commissioned in Tampa, Fla., on Oct. 7, then will push on to San Diego later in the year.

About a week earlier, the Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Augusta will be commissioned in Eastport, Maine, then will begin its own journey to San Diego, its first operating base.

The LCS Jackson, whose crew was profiled by the Union-Tribune in June, was reported to be in Hawaii this week. The ship’s deployment is expected to end by fall, when it returns to San Diego.

A fourth ship, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser Lake Champlain, was decommissioned in San Diego on Sept. 1. The Navy is phasing out all of its “Tico” cruisers, whose role has largely been subsumed by modern Burke-class destroyers.


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