USS Zumwalt’s Recent Pacific Underway is ‘First Step’ for Future of the Class, Says PACFLEET Commander

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of next year’s installation of hypersonic missiles, the Navy took one of its most advanced warships out for a three-month underway in the Western Pacific to test the ship’s capabilities and reliability, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet told USNI News. USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), this month, wrapped up an operational testing period […]

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) returns to San Diego, Nov. 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of next year’s installation of hypersonic missiles, the Navy took one of its most advanced warships out for a three-month underway in the Western Pacific to test the ship’s capabilities and reliability, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet told USNI News.

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), this month, wrapped up an operational testing period in the U.S. Pacific Fleet, giving the service the opportunity to workout the destroyer’s systems and the crew ahead of upgrades to outfit it with weapons

“We learned a lot. [The] main thing we learned about was how to sustain it as it’s often operated,” Adm. Samuel Paparo told USNI News on Friday at the annual Military Reporters and Editors conference.
“It’s an exquisite capability with a ton of promise.”

Paparo acknowledged the program’s difficult past – the Navy commissioned the ship six years ago, and it has mostly been used as a test platform out of San Diego. That history is why the service did not publicly announce Zumwalt leaving to operate in PACFLEET, he said.

During its time underway from early August through early November, Zumwalt operated in both U.S. 3rd Fleet and U.S. 7th Fleet, making port calls in Hawaii, Guam and Yokosuka, Japan.

“We’re really kind of worker-like in getting the Zumwalt west of the dateline, operating her, operating her systems, stretching and training its crew, integrating it with the rest of the fleet to bring its capabilities to bear,” Paparo said.

In a call with reporters last week, Capt. Shea Thompson, the commodore for Surface Development Squadron 1, declined to say whether Zumwalt operated in the South China Sea during the recent underway.

“She conducted joint and bilateral simulated maritime fires training with the 613 [Air Operations Center] and B-1 Bombers, to include a Japanese destroyer and CTF-71 staff. And that was to test combat systems capabilities while operating in 7th Fleet,” Thompson said. “They also worked with the forward deployed [explosive ordnance disposal] unit on the mine countermeasures proof of concept and she integrated with the fleet [maritime operations centers] and conducted air operations with the Army.”

Guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) arrives at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan on Aug. 26, 2022. US Navy Photo

Capt. Amy McInnis, the commanding officer of Zumwalt, declined to provide details about the MCM proof of concept, other than to say the destroyer carried rigid-hull inflatable boats and floated them out at sea. The destroyer did not take an aviation detachment during its underway in PACFLEET.

Zumwalt will go into the dry dock in late 2023 for an 18-month maintenance availability and get outfitted with hypersonic missiles in Fiscal Year 2024 and FY 2025, Thompson said.

After the install, Zumwalt will go through several months of testing to ensure the hypersonic missiles were installed correctly. It will then take the ship about a year to go through workups to prepare for its first deployment with the hypersonic weapons.

“We intend to upgrade its mission systems. We intend to employ its stealthy capabilities, its passive detection, its well deck, the ability to integrate undersea unmanned capabilities, surface unmanned capabilities and to really use it as an all-domain platform that can collect. It can sense,” Paparo told USNI News.
“It can execute rapid disorienting fires and can do so in contested environments to be a difference maker and an enabling capability. This year was a first step. It was exciting. We tested her. We wrung out its crew. We built confidence in our ability to sustain her. We put her to sea for long periods of time. We gained confidence in her propulsion systems and her weapon systems.”

Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., on Aug. 4, 2022 USNI News Photo

Shortly after its 2016 commissioning, Zumwalt experienced propulsion failures while transiting through the Panama Canal en route to Naval Base San Diego. The destroyer was stuck pierside for several days of repairs.

As for operational concepts for Zumwalt, Thompson said future fleet commanders will have their choice as to how they want to employ the destroyer.

“This is a multi-mission warship. Obviously, with the CPS upgrade that is planned for future install, we’re putting a lot of resources and effort behind enhancing the surface strike capability on that platform,” Thompson said. “But again, it’s a multi-mission warship. It can operate independently. It can operate within a [surface action group]. It can operate within a strike group. It’s going to depend on what the fleet commander – how that fleet commander desires to deploy her.”

Navy Details Hypersonic Missiles on Zumwalt Destroyers, Virginia Submarines

ARLINGTON, Va. – The trio of Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyers could each field up to a dozen hypersonic missiles, with the first ship ready for testing in 2025, USNI News has learned. The service has determined that the hull can accommodate four 87-inch missile tubes that can each hold multiple missiles, Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe the […]

Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., on Aug. 4, 2022 USNI News Photo

ARLINGTON, Va. – The trio of Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyers could each field up to a dozen hypersonic missiles, with the first ship ready for testing in 2025, USNI News has learned.

The service has determined that the hull can accommodate four 87-inch missile tubes that can each hold multiple missiles, Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe the head of the Navy’s strategic systems programs, told reporters on Tuesday at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium.

“We’re talking about deploying this system on DDG-1000 in 2025, that’s three years from now,” Wolfe said.
“We got to get on with getting all of the design for the Zumwalt, getting all of those tubes in there, as we pulled out the forward gun mounts. We’ve gotten to put these large diameter tubes in there, and then finish the integration work into the combat system.”

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) is set to arrive at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., late next year to start a modernization period to install the missile tubes that will replace the two existing 155mm gun mounts on the 16,000-ton guided-missile destroyer, USNI News first reported in August.

USNI News understands the Navy has determined in previous studies that three Common Hypersonic Glide Bodies (C-HGB) and their boosters could fit in each 87-inch tube – or 12 missiles per Zumwalt.

USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) will follow Zumwalt to Ingalls for its own modernization period that will include installing the missile tubes. It’s unclear if the third Zumwalt-class ship, Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) –currently at Ingalls – will also have the missiles installed as part of its combat systems activation period.

The inclusion of hypersonics on the ship followed a 2017 decision to make the three-ship Zumwalt class blue water combatants.

Zumwalt gave us an opportunity to get [hypersonics] out faster and to be honest with you, I need a solid mission for Zumwalt,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told USNI News during an interview earlier this year.

The weapon’s dimensions are common across the Navy and Army and have been developed as part of a joint program between both services.

“You need to have the same lethality no matter where you’re at. And that’s what this weapon does. It’s all the same with the lethality to get after all these targets. It just depends on who’s launching it, right, whether it’s the Army, from a [transporter erector launcher], or whether it’s a Zumwalt, or whether it’s a Virginia-class submarine,” Wolfe said.

A common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB) launches from Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii, at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time on March 19, 2020. US Navy Photo

The weapons are designed to fill the Pentagon’s longstanding prompt global strike mission that calls for the ability to launch a conventional strike almost anywhere in the world at ranges of thousands of miles.

The Pentagon over the last several years has accelerated its development of hypersonic weapons, or those traveling faster than five times the speed of sound. In 2018, the Defense Department tasked the Navy with developing a weapon for itself and the Army.

“On these high-end systems, it is no longer affordable for a single service to do that. We’re working with the [Office the Secretary of Defense], we’re working with the Army and with what our resource sponsor is doing to figure out how we build this capability once and get out to multiple platforms,” Wolfe said.

The Navy is pairing a glide body launched from a booster system to create an “all-up round” that would be in use by both services. In June, the first flight test proved the viability of the booster but the glide body didn’t hit the target.

Wolfe said the Navy found and corrected the flaw within two months.

While hypersonics are considered a conventional weapon, Wolfe is still overseeing the portfolio, which the Pentagon is treating as a strategic weapon, he told USNI News. Wolfe is also responsible for the Navy’s submarine-launched nuclear weapons.

“It’s strategic, but it’s not nuclear. If you look at the numbers, particularly with what we’re going to with the ranges, it is very much a strategic asset. You can hold very high-value targets at risk … and you can do that with all these various platforms,” Wolfe told USNI News.

The Zumwalt destroyers will be the first Navy platform to field the missiles. The Army is set to get its first operational, truck-launched weapons next year. In 2029, the weapons will be deployed on the first attack submarine with the Virginia Payload Module that is currently under construction at General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding.

The Navy is currently building a test facility to launch the new weapon underwater from a similar tube as those installed on the Zumwalt ships and the Virginia boats, Wolfe said.

Artist’s concept of the Virginia Payload Module.

“Our first challenge was: Can we develop an air launch? Basically pressurized air to get that weapon out of a Zumwalt, right up in the air, so it lights off and we don’t have all those hot gases [to deal with]. We’ve actually proven that we’ve done that testing … That’s the next challenge is build the underwater launch,” he said.
“We’re starting to build a facility to do underwater launch testing, so that we understand what that weapon will do, even before we get to the first Virginia.”

In terms of fielding the weapons, Wolfe said progress has been on track to meet the tight deadlines on the Navy platforms, but margins were thin.

“I think we’re on a pretty good path right now, but time is not our friend,” he said.

Destroyer Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee Completes Navy Acceptance Trials

The last Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer to be built at Ingalls Shipbuilding completed its acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico, the Navy announced. The trials are one of the last steps before Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) delivers from the Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard to the Navy. “During trials, the Navy’s Board of Inspection […]

Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) during sea trials. HII Photo

The last Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer to be built at Ingalls Shipbuilding completed its acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico, the Navy announced.

The trials are one of the last steps before Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) delivers from the Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard to the Navy.

“During trials, the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey inspected the ship performing a series of demonstrations while pier side and underway to validate performance,” Naval Sea Systems Command said in a statement late last week.
“The ship’s onboard systems, including navigation, damage control, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, communications, and propulsion applications, met or exceeded Navy specifications.”

Higbee will be the last Ingalls Flight IIA destroyer to be built around the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1D(v) air search radar — a staple of the class since USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) — and the Aegis Combat Systems Baseline 9C2, according to NAVSEA.

“Completing a successful sea trial is always a significant accomplishment for our combined Ingalls and Navy team, and DDG-123 performed well, Ingalls president Kari Wilkinson said in a statement.
“We are committed to this partnership and look forward to our next opportunity to demonstrate it during our next trial events for our first Flight III destroyer.”

The subsequent Flight III destroyers will field the Raytheon AN/SPY-6 active electronically scanned array air search radar which required a redesign of the hull to accommodate the extra space, power weight and cooling for the more powerful and energy intensive.

The first Flight III — Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) — is also under construction at Ingalls and shared a pier with Higbee when USNI News visited the yard in August. Higbee is billed as a Flight IIA technology insertion ship that will incorporate some of the Flight III changes ahead of the first destroyers joining the fleet. Higbee was procured as part of a 2013 multi-ship award between Ingalls and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Maine. The keel was laid in 2017 and the ship launched in 2020.

Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee. Photo courtesy Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to Higbee and Lucas, Ingalls has three other destroyers under construction — Ted Stevens (DDG-128), Jeremiah Denton (DDG-129) and George M. Neal (DDG-131).

Destroyer Higbee is the second to be named for Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee who was the second superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps during World War I and the influenza pandemic, according to a 2017 piece in Naval History Magazine.

She received the Navy Cross in 1920, “distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual and conspicuous devotion to duty as superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps,” according to her citation.

Destroyer Higbee is set to commission in Key West, Fla., in a ceremony on May 13, 2023.

STRATCOM Nominee: U.S. Dealing with Expanding Nuclear Threats from China, Russia

Russia and China’s nuclear capabilities require continual assessment due to the threats these powers pose to the United States and its allies, the nominee to head U.S. Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Testifying Thursday, Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton said the assessment needs to cover how “the two might work […]

General Anthony Cotton, Air Force Global Strike Command commander, speaks during the Striker Stripe event May 9, 2022, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. Cotton emphasized the importance of familiarizing Airmen with today’s complex strategic environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chase Sullivan)

Russia and China’s nuclear capabilities require continual assessment due to the threats these powers pose to the United States and its allies, the nominee to head U.S. Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Testifying Thursday, Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton said the assessment needs to cover how “the two might work together” and “how they might not work together” in a crisis. He pointed to Russia’s warnings that it could use limited nuclear weapons to take over Ukraine and China’s breathtaking advances in building its nuclear triad in fewer than four years. Cotton said this is the first time, since the dawn of the nuclear age in 1945, that the United States had to weigh the threats coming from more than one power with strategic weapons.

That assessment will play a crucial role in understanding “what needs to be done” in force shaping and future security and nuclear strategy and the role the command plays in carrying them out, he added.

“I absolutely believe that our nuclear deterrent” helped deter Russia from using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Cotton, who heads the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, said he supports accelerating the development of nuclear weapons systems, platforms, command and control, and infrastructure modernization when possible.

“We have to roll up our sleeves” to meet the challenges of modernization in facing two near-peer competitors, he added.

To do this, “we’re going to need stable, predictable funding” from Congress and the administration. In turn, the same stability and predictability needs to come from the Pentagon in defining requirements for nuclear programs across the board.

While Cotton on several occasions voiced his support for modernizing all three legs of the triad in both oral and written testimony, the only direct question about the Navy’s ballistic missile submarine program concerned extending the service life of some Ohio-class class boomers.

Cotton said that he needed to understand “what aging we really see” in extending some of the Ohio boats’ service lives to 42 years instead of the originally planned 30. Will the extension “get the result we want” or build new is the question that has to be answered, he said.

He also voiced his support for the continued development of the long-range stand-off cruise missile for the Air Force’s bomber fleet to keep that leg of the triad viable. His support also kept the door open for a nuclear long-range sea-launched cruise missile, an effort the Biden administration canceled earlier this year. Long-range in these cases means missiles capable of covering distances over 1,500 miles.

This spring, Adm. Charles Richard, the current STRATCOM commander, and Adm. James Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee that they favored the continued development of the sea-based weapon.

“I have seen that capability gap as well,” referring to the long-range strike program in general, Cotton said.

Now that electro-magnetic and spectrum warfare falls under STRATCOM, Cotton said, “it’s going to be a front-burner issue.” He added that over the years the program in the Pentagon has atrophied. Cotton said he intends to have the command “not pace our adversaries, but lead our adversaries” in this domain.

The command is still feeling the pandemic’s impact on defense production and delivery, he added. Even with American-made parts, he said that in some areas it is taking 90 days to deliver components versus 10 before COVID-19 reached pandemic levels.

The committee and full Senate are expected to confirm Cotton’s nomination.

CNO: Navy Will Lead DDG(X) Design Effort, Wargames Call for Fewer Large Surface Warships

The design of the next American guided-missile destroyer will be led by the Navy in move that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday says will reduce technical risk in the program. The service brought in Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works to jointly develop DDG(X), the planned follow-on to the Arleigh Burke Flight […]

Notional Navy DDG(X) hull design. PEO Ships Image

The design of the next American guided-missile destroyer will be led by the Navy in move that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday says will reduce technical risk in the program.

The service brought in Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works to jointly develop DDG(X), the planned follow-on to the Arleigh Burke Flight III, but the Navy will firmly be driving the design, Gilday said speaking at the DefenseOne State of Defense conference on Wednesday.

“What we’ve done with DDG X is we brought in private shipbuilders, so that they can help inform the effort. It’s a team, but it’s Navy led. And so, both of the companies that produce DDGs are involved in that initial design. Our intent is to go into build with a mature design,” he said.
“I think it’s important that the Navy maintain the lead on design.”

The move for the Navy to take the lead in design is in response to the technical risk the sea service has endured in other ship classes. He cited success with the detailed design of the Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine being 80 percent complete before fabrication began on lead ship District of Columbia (SSBN-826).

“Technical risk has been a challenge for us, whether it’s Zumwalt, [Littoral Combat Ships] or [Gerald Ford-class carrier], in particular. [In] those three builds, we’ve accepted technical risks and it’s cost us in terms of keeping those ships, not only within budget, but also on schedule,” Gilday said.

The Navy is set on having the next destroyer, planned to start fabrication in 2028, be a new hull wrapped around existing systems as a further risk reduction.

“An example might be the shift from the Ticonderoga cruiser to the Arleigh Burke destroyer, where we use where we essentially use the same combat system, the same weapon system but the hull is different,” Gilday said.
“Our intent for DDG(X) would be much the same, that we would use a proven combat system on that ship. But we need a ship that has more space and allows for more weight and for capability growth over time. An example might be hypersonic missiles, just based on the size of those missiles. We couldn’t fit those in a current Arleigh Burke, or even a Flight III. [DDG(X) is] a deeper ship, if you will, from that standpoint.”

The Navy is pushing for future surface ships to be armed with hypersonic missiles for offense and directed energy for defense — both require more power and more space than is possible with the current Burke hulls — even the 10,000-ton Flight IIIs, Gilday said.

Jack Lucas (DDG-125) launched on June 5, 2021. HII Photo

It’s unclear how many of the new ships the Navy needs and how it would feather in with the existing Flight III ships underway at both Ingalls and HII.

Gilday said ongoing wargames that are testing out the Navy’s developing distributed maritime operations concept are pushing the service to field less large combatants like DDG(X) and more smaller ones like the Constellation-class guided-missile frigate (FFG-62) along with more nuclear attack submarines.

“The trends that we’re seeing — as we take a look at distributed maritime operations and as we take a look at a number of for structure assessments going back to 2016 — are more submarines, definitely more supply ships. In terms of the surface force, we’re seeing a rebalancing. The demand as we war game, as we exercise as we do more analysis is the trend for surface ships is all less larger surface combatants and more smaller surface combatants.

In the short term, Congress is pushing the Navy to buy more Flight IIIs with House pending defense policy bills calling for an up to 15-hull, five-year contract that would extend the class to a total of 104 ships.

At that rate, the shipyards would need to produce three hulls a year, a number Gilday said the industrial base couldn’t meet now.

“Right now, we’re not at a point where the industrial base can support three destroyers a year. They’re somewhere at two, two and a half,” he said.
“We want to make sure if we’re going to put that money down against shipbuilding, that the capacity is actually there. So that money is well spent… sending them a clear signal.”

Gilday pointed to an overall strain in the industrial base for shipbuilding as the limiting factor.

“It’s across the board,” he said.
“We’ve seen challenges with the industrial base, producing submarines on time, on schedule, and within budget. Same thing with aircraft carriers — destroyers are coming around but we still have some work to do. We’re seeing challenges… whether it’s shipbuilding, whether it’s aircraft production, the defense industrial base right now is strained. And a lot of that has to do with the workforce, as we recover from COVID.”

HII Wins $42M Award for Lyndon B. Johnson Combat System Activation

Ingalls Shipbuilding was awarded a $41.6 million contract modification to begin the combat system activation of Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) in Mississippi, according to a Monday Pentagon announcement. The shipyard will provide, “temporary dock services and maintenance to the ship … to accomplish the combat systems availability (CSA) for DDG 1002,” reads […]

Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., on Aug. 4, 2022 USNI News Photo

Ingalls Shipbuilding was awarded a $41.6 million contract modification to begin the combat system activation of Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) in Mississippi, according to a Monday Pentagon announcement.

The shipyard will provide, “temporary dock services and maintenance to the ship … to accomplish the combat systems availability (CSA) for DDG 1002,” reads the announcement.
“Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and is expected to be completed by October 2023.”

The two previous Zumwalts – USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) and USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) – underwent their combat system activations at Naval Station San Diego, Calif., following a hull, mechanical and engineering delivery to the service from builder General Dynamics Bath Iron Work, Maine.

Instead of activating the combat system in San Diego with a full crew aboard, the Navy elected to take the ship to Ingalls, USNI News reported last year.

In a June 2021 report to the Government Accountability Office the Navy outlined its rationale for no longer performing the combat system activation in San Diego.

“For DDG-1002, the Navy changed its delivery plan over the past year. According to the program manager, instead of taking custody of the ship from the builder’s yard and completing the combat system at Naval Base San Diego, the Navy is now planning to contract with a private shipyard to install the combat system and will not take delivery or commission DDG-1002 until it is fully complete,” reads a GAO report on major acquisition programs. “The program manager stated that this new approach may result in additional schedule delays; however, it will free up valuable pier space in Naval Base San Diego and enable the Navy to avoid moving the crew onboard DDG-1002 until it is ready to operate. The program manager identified the change as a response to lessons learned from DDG-1000 and 1001—specifically, that completing combat system activation and final construction is complicated by onboard crew, in part, because access to spaces is more constrained.”

As part of the report, the Navy estimated Johnson would deliver by 2024.

The contract award follows a mid-August notice from Naval Sea Systems Command on the other two ships in the class. The notice said the Navy intended for Zumwalt and Monsoor to travel from California to Ingalls for an extensive maintenance availability. That availability, USNI News has learned, will include removing the 155mm Advanced Gun Systems on the two 16,000-ton ships and replacing them with launch tubes for hypersonic missiles.

USNI News first reported in March that the Navy intended to remove the guns to install the missile tubes.

It’s unclear if Johnson’s availability will include the removal of its AGS and the installation of the tubes for hypersonic weapons.

The work on the first two ships in the class is set to kick off in October, Navy officials told USNI News earlier this year.

The trio of ships are set to be the first U.S. warships to field hypersonic weapons. Navy officials have said they intend to have the weapons to sea on the Zumwalts by 2025.

Zumwalt gave us an opportunity to get [hypersonics] out faster and to be honest with you I need a solid mission for Zumwalt,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told USNI News during an interview earlier this year.

The following is the complete Aug. 29, 2022 contract announcement.

Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, is awarded a $41,646,746 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to definitize the previously awarded undefinitized contract N00024-22-C-2300 for temporary dock services and maintenance to the ship (including, but not limited to, preventative and corrective maintenance), as required, as well as management, labor, material, facilities, emergent work support and maintenance as required, to accomplish the combat systems availability (CSA) for DDG 1002. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and is expected to be completed by October 2023. Fiscal 2016 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $750,687 (3%); fiscal 2018 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $3,496,466 (13%); fiscal 2020 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $2,053,085 (7%); and fiscal 2022 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funds in the amount of $21,078,471 (77%) will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Huntington Ingalls Inc. is the only responsible source available to perform the DDG 1002 CSA with resource availability and the technical capabilities required to complete the DDG 1002 CSA. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-22-C-2300).

China Criticizes U.S. Navy Taiwan Strait Transits, F-35B ‘Lightning Carrier’ USS Tripoli Now in South China Sea

Two U.S.warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday — the first since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan, sparking increased tensions between Washington and Beijing. USS Antietam (CG-54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) sailed through the Taiwan Strait, according to a Saturday press release from 7th Fleet. The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers are […]

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) transits the East China Sea during routine underway operations on Aug. 28. US Navy Photo

Two U.S.warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday — the first since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan, sparking increased tensions between Washington and Beijing.

USS Antietam (CG-54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) sailed through the Taiwan Strait, according to a Saturday press release from 7th Fleet. The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers are both homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” reads a statement from U.S. 7th Fleet.
“The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

The People’s Liberation Army tracked the two cruisers during the transit, according to a Monday statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

“The Eastern Theater Command conducted security tracking and monitoring of the US warships’ passage in the whole course, and had all movements of the U.S. warships under control,” spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
“U.S. warships frequently flex muscles in the name of exercising freedom of navigation. This is not about keeping the region free and open. This is provocation aimed at ‘freedom of trespassing’ and it constitutes deliberate sabotage of regional peace and stability.”

Meanwhile, amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is also in the South China Sea, along with its fleet of F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, which are onboard as the Navy and Marine Corps test out the “lightning carrier” concept,” according to Monday’s USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker. The amphibious warship left San Diego, Calif., on its first deployment in May.

The cruiser transits were criticized in Chinese state-controlled media, which called the cruiser pair “old” in a post. While the two warships, which were commissioned in the late 80s, are older, Tripoli commissioned in 2020 and is on its first deployment.

The Taiwan Strait transits were routine, according to the 7th Fleet press release. Both ships sailed in waters the U.S. does not consider to be territorial sea.

Antietam recently was underway as part of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

CNO Gilday: Industrial Capacity Largest Barrier to Growing the Fleet

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The biggest barrier to adding more ships to the Navy is industrial base capacity, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday. The service’s top officer said shipbuilders need indicators from the service before they’re able to make the investments required to build, for example, three destroyers per year. “We have […]

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday delivers testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2023 defense budget request on May 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The biggest barrier to adding more ships to the Navy is industrial base capacity, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday.

The service’s top officer said shipbuilders need indicators from the service before they’re able to make the investments required to build, for example, three destroyers per year.

“We have an industrial capacity that’s limited. In other words, we can only get so many ships off the production line a year. My goal would be to optimize those production lines for destroyers, for frigates, for amphibious ships, for the light amphibious ships, for supply ships,” Gilday said at a Heritage Foundation event.

“We need to give a signal to industry that we need to get to three destroyers a year, instead of 1.5, that we need to maintain two submarines a year. And so part of this is on us to give them a clear set of – a clear aim point so they can plan a work force and infrastructure that’s going to be able to meet the demand. But again, no industry is going to make those kinds of investments unless we give them a higher degree of confidence.”

Asked by USNI News after the event if the reason the Navy isn’t ready to send that signal to industry is because of funding, Gilday said, “it depends on the class of ships. Sometimes it’s affordability. Sometimes it’s industrial capacity.”

The Navy in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget submission projected buying two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers per year between FY 2023 and FY 2027. But Congress is pushing for a 10-ship buy across that same time period with options for five more destroyers, amounting to three destroyers per year.

While Gilday has pointed to capacity as a hurdle to growing the fleet, two U.S. shipyards have already made significant infrastructure investments that could set them up to build more ships. Austal USA recently built a new steel line and is interested in the second line for the Constellation-class frigate. HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding, which builds some of the destroyers, has spent nearly $1 billion over the last five years to modernize its Pascagoula, Miss., yard, USNI News recently reported. Bath Iron Works, the other yard that builds the destroyers, is still facing a backlog of work that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gilday’s 2022 Navigation Plan, released last month, calls for 373 manned ships and about 150 unmanned surface and underwater vehicles by 2045.

As for unmanned, Gilday said that when he assumed top job, he viewed the Navy’s pursuit of those platforms the same way he viewed traditional acquisition programs, which typically span years and take significant research and development. The service’s unmanned efforts have to move faster, he argued.

“We’ve changed the construct. We’ve changed the framework in terms of our development of unmanned capabilities,” Gilday said.

The CNO pointed to the Task Force 59 effort operating in the Middle East that has tested numerous contractor-owned vessels and unmanned air assets with allies and partners.

A Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) sails in the Gulf of Aqaba off of Jordan’s coast on Dec. 12, 2021. US Navy Photo

“With unmanned technologies that are out there, we’ve developed a DevOps kind of environment with [an] unmanned task force in the Pentagon that’s closely connected to Task Force 59, which operates out of Bahrain,” he said. “And that task force is operating with six or seven different countries as a team right now to increase maritime domain awareness using unmanned in the air and on the sea. Our goal is to have 100 networked unmanned platforms operating together, tied together in a mesh network that delivers an understanding of what’s afloat out there – whether it’s in the Red Sea or the Arabian Gulf.”

The goal is to have those 100 unmanned platforms, most of which Gilday said would belong to allies and partners, by the summer of 2023.

“If we take a look at the Red Sea, the Red Sea’s about the size of the state of California. On any given day, we may have four or five coalition ships that are operating in that water space. Think about five patrol cars trying to secure the state of California,” he said. “And then think about the power of unmanned and what that capability gives you in terms of sensing and then understanding at the tactical edge, in these operation centers, and our partner nations leveraging AI.”

For unmanned, Gilday emphasized the importance of the artificial intelligence software integration over the physical asset.

“So if I drew a parallel to Tesla who’s a digital native in the automotive industry, there’s plenty of platforms out there – Volkswagen, Ford, a number of companies have their platform. The secret sauce is that AI software” piece, he said.

“And we don’t have to have the same company that develops both of these. It’s a very competitive environment. Small companies are making the magic plugin that we can change out very quickly,” Gilday added. “So we’re trying to field capabilities, unmanned capabilities, in this Fiscal Year Defense Plan, within three to five years. Actually we’re fielding it now. It’s also informing, this progress is informing some of our bigger programs like large and medium unmanned [surface vehicles] that we would hope to scale later on in this decade.”

After the event, Gilday told USNI News that Task Force 59 will continue its unmanned exercises, but said the U.S. is trying to more regularly integrate unmanned platforms into its fleet operations.

“We’re folding in unmanned to fleet battle problems, we’re doing it with deploying strike groups,” he said. “We’re just trying to make it more something that we’re doing routinely rather than just having a separate exercise.”

Gulf Coast Shipyards Growing Capacity While Navy Shipbuilding Plans Remain Unsettled

PASCAGOULA, Miss. — From the fantail of the 24,000-ton Richard M. McCool, Jr., (LPD-28), one can see the world’s most complex warships coming together, with shipbuilders welding, painting and running cables in the Mississippi sun. Two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers – Leah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) and the first Flight III Burke Jack Lucas […]

Amphibious warship Richard M. McCool, Jr., (LPD-29) on Aug. 4, 2022. USNI News Photo

PASCAGOULA, Miss. — From the fantail of the 24,000-ton Richard M. McCool, Jr., (LPD-28), one can see the world’s most complex warships coming together, with shipbuilders welding, painting and running cables in the Mississippi sun.

Two Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers – Leah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) and the first Flight III Burke Jack Lucas (DDG-125) – are under construction and moored nearby. Further down the pier the Coast Guard National Security Cutter Calhoun (WMSL-759) is nearing completion. Towering stories over the pier nearby, still primer white, is the half-way complete Bougainville (LHA-8), the Navy’s next 45,000-ton big deck amphibious ship, designed from the keel up to host Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters. Just north of McCool is the angular hull of Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), awaiting the start of its combat systems activation before joining the fleet.

While Ingalls Shipbuilding is full of activity now, there’s uncertainty not only for this yard, but for naval shipbuilders around the country as the Navy struggles with its long-range shipbuilding outlook. A few months ago, it wasn’t clear if the Navy would buy many more ships like McCool.

Earlier this year, the Department of the Navy was divided over the total number of amphibious warships the Navy could buy to execute the Marines’ new plan to take on China in the Western Pacific. Absent new orders, the San Antonio-class (LPD-17) line would top out at LPD-32, with no clear path on the future for the gator navy.

Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., on Aug. 4, 2022 USNI News Photo

Congress eventually settled what became a public spat between the Navy and the Marine Corps over the amphibious fleet size. Lawmakers sided with the Marine Corps by including a standalone bill that requires a floor of 31 amphibious ships in the Navy’s inventory.

“The amphibious warfare ship force structure of the Navy must be maintained at 31, composed of 10 amphibious assault ships general-purpose and multi-purpose, and 21 amphibious transport dock types, in order to meet global commitments,” reads the standalone bill put forward by House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee chair Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and ranking member Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.).

The legislative decision resulted in a sigh of relief at HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., where the 24,000-ton amphibs have been built since the start of the line, as well as the 45,000-ton America-class big deck amphibious ships.

Unlike the steady design, development and construction in the submarine community, surface programs in both the Navy and the Coast Guard have suffered from starts, stops, changes in missions and priorities. The Navy has issued calls for a bigger fleet, but the Pentagon has submitted shipbuilding budgets seeking limited new construction while decommissioning more ships than it plans to buy.

The Navy is still piecing together a plan for its next-generation DDG(X) guided-missile destroyer as it builds the current Flight III Arleigh Burke combatants (DDG-51s). Additionally, the service is considering whether it should start a second line for the Constellation-class guided-missile frigate (FFG-62) that will succeed the two designs of the Littoral Combat Ship. The Navy and Marines are also divided on the pace for the Light Amphibious Warship program, which the Marine Corps says is essential to its new Marine Littoral Regiments that are key to the emerging island-hopping campaign in the Western Pacific.

Despite the lack of specifics, shipyards in the Gulf Coast have quietly mounted extensive capital expansion efforts for new construction and repair work as D.C. hammers out the plans for the future fleet.

USNI News toured three shipyards this month – Ingalls Shipbuilding, Austal USA and Halter Marine – that are pushing out new ships for the Navy and Coast Guard. In addition to new construction, Austal USA and Ingalls are increasing their volume for repair overhauls as the Navy continues to dig out of a maintenance backlog that mounted during the Global War on Terror.

Ingalls Shipbuilding

Arleigh Burke destroyers Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), Lenah H. Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) and the Legend-class cutter Calhoun (WMSL-759) at Ingalls Shipbuilding on Aug. 4, 2022. USNI News Photo

The 800 acres of Ingalls Shipbuilding’s west yard is arguably the most complex shipyard in North America, based on the number and different types of ships it builds. The manmade square on the Pascagoula River was purpose-built in the late 1960s to construct the Spruance-class guided-missile destroyers based on the modular construction tenants of European shipbuilding.

“We’re a big volume, big production shipyard,” Ingalls President Kari Wilkinson told USNI News during an Aug. 4 visit to the yard.


As of today, the yard is under contract to build 17 ships across four lines – nine Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, three San Antonio-class amphibious warships, two America-class big deck amphibs and the last two of 11 planned Coast Guard Legend-class National Security Cutters.

That work has been steady, but some lines are beginning to wind down and Ingalls is positioning itself to bid for emerging work from the Navy – like the second line for the Constellation-class guided-missile frigate and the next-generation destroyer known as DDG(X). The Navy’s final disposition on the amphibious fleet will have major ramifications for the yard.

“We would love to grow that and continue to support all those [amphibious] classes of ships. We’ve got the bench strength for it. We don’t want to lose that capability because we’ve got some tremendous experience in that regard,” Wilkinson said.

Shipbuilder welding on the bow section of a future San Antonio-class amphibious warship at Ingalls Shipbuilding on Aug. 4, 2022. USNI News Photo

The steadiest future work is in the destroyer business. The yard is finishing Jack Lucas (DDG-125), which is the first Flight III Arleigh Burke ship that was developed a decade ago as a stopgap ahead of developing a new large surface combatant for the service. Congress is interested in extending the line for another 15 hulls as part of a multi-year deal split between Ingalls and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine. The potential multi-year is currently under consideration as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 defense policy bill. The Navy has been careful to split the hulls between Bath and Ingalls evenly, but defense officials and legislative sources have told USNI News that Ingalls has the capacity to build more DDGs if the Navy ups the rate to three ships per year.

Foreseeing the transition in its business, Ingalls is wrapping a “shipyard of the future” modernization that has pumped almost $1 billion into the Pascagoula yard over the last five years, Wilkinson said.

“How do we make the work easier for people? It makes them more efficient,” Wilkinson said.

“With efficiency comes additional capacity to process. We know that budgets are going to continue to be challenged. We’re trying to keep ourselves in excellent posture to offer the best product for the lowest cost.”

Covered work areas at Ingalls Shipbuilding West Bank facility on Aug. 4, 2022. USNI News Photo

Much of the work is to increase automation and ease the work for the 11,300 builders who work at the yard. That includes robot welders, laser cutters, more climate-controlled buildings and a complete revamp of its planning infrastructure to squeeze efficiency out of the workforce.

“We’ve not laid anyone off. Labor is always going to be a challenge, to come by right-skilled labor, it’s getting increasingly difficult. You hear that everywhere. The extent to which we can automate things that make sense for us, and it’s efficient, and it’s not going to lay somebody off, we’re going to do that,” Wilkinson said.

“As we have freed up people for other things, they’ve gone to other places in the shipyard to leverage their skill sets.”

A major change to the yard is giant fabric panels covering work areas. Instead of wide swaths of uncovered concrete, most of the open space at Ingalls is now covered from the worst of the Mississippi sun.

“We covered over a million square feet of space between buildings that used to be out in the open,” Wilkinson said.

The hull of the futureUSS Bougainville (LHA-8) at Ingalls Shipbuilding on Aug. 4, 2022. USNI News Photo

Another push for the shipyard of the future drive was the purchase of a modern drydock with a capacity of 75,000 tons that can position ships more easily across the square faces of the shipyard.

“It is much more affordable to move a drydock to a different location rather than move the ship,” she said.

The drydock was instrumental in the yard’s efforts to repair the badly damaged USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) that was struck by a merchant ship in 2017. The drydock allowed shipyard workers to lift the destroyer out of the water to the pier at the west yard for repairs.

The two years of work on Fitz opened up opportunities for other maintenance work at the yard. Ingalls original east bank yard, established in 1938. The new East Bank facility opened in 2020.

“We typically use repair and overhaul work for filler. We don’t want to lose talent,” Wilkinson said.
“However, there is an interesting business conversation about the east bank as a [repair] center of excellence. So we want to support our customer in a conversation and overhaul is something they need us to do. We’re certainly open to that.”

During USNI News’ visit to the yard, Ingalls was beginning the combat system activation work on Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002). Last week, USNI News reported that the two other ships in the class — USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) and USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) — would undergo a modernization overhaul at Ingalls to include the installation of the Navy’s first at-sea hypersonic weapon systems.

Austal USA

Shipyard worker at the Austal USA yard in Mobile, Ala., looking on Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship Augusta (LCS-34). USNI News Photo

It was fair for employees at Austal USA’s Mobile, Ala., yard to feel nervous at the start of 2022. The two main lines of the shipbuilder’s aluminum construction were winding down with little new booked work.

The Navy decided to cap the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship at 19 hulls, while the Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) had been kept alive past its expected 10-ship requirement largely due to the Alabama congressional delegation’s efforts during the annual budget process.

In anticipation of the end of the Indys and the EPFs, Austal retooled its manufacturing panel line to start building steel ships – winning its first contract in late 2021 for the line to build two Navajo-class Towing, Salvage and Rescue Ship.

In June, the yard won the Coast Guard bid to replace Eastern Shipbuilding as the builder of the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutters starting with the fifth hull — the future Pickering (WMSM-919) — with options for as many as 11 cutters with a value of up to $3.3 billion. Additionally, the yard won two more options for more Navajos in late July and a floating drydock for the Navy.

President Rusty Murdaugh has overseen the Australian-owned Austal USA since early 2021 and chalks up the success of never losing a bid for new construction to the Mobile yard’s adherence to the “lean manufacturing” ethos born from the Japanese auto industry that wrings out waste and inefficiency from industrial processes.

The future USNS Cody (EPF-14) at Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., on Aug. 3, 2022. USNI News Photo

“We’ve always been very vertically integrated. We’ve had our own design team. Not many yards have their own design team. We’ve always had our own design for manufacturing process,” he told USNI News in an interview during a recent visit to the yard.

“We’ve done it ourselves, from making the tanks and some of the other things that a lot of yards subcontract out. We do that because it’s lean.”

The in-house design chops and heavily managed workflow of Austal’s panel lines and module construction allow the yard to build several different new construction ships at once on the same steel line, from the OPCs to smaller autonomous ships the Navy is developing for its Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle program.


“To do a 70-foot autonomy ship was something not on our radar a couple of years ago but what you’ll see is the yard is agnostic… [Austal USA] is, able to build 70-foot ships or 700-foot ships. That’s the range of shipbuilding that we have going on as booked business right now and we’re going to continue to keep that wide range as long as it meets the needs of our customers and supports the yard’s ability to do high volume,” Murdaugh said.

“We’ve changed the way we manage the business from hulls to platforms. And so the panel can handle eight to 10 different platforms going through it at once. It has a lot of capacity. And we have growth plans that go out 50 years so that we can double the panel line.”

Austal was key to developing the autonomous systems in the Ghost Fleet Overlord test vessels. The yard also added extensive autonomous features to Spearhead-class Apalachicola (EPF-13).

Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship Santa Barbara (LCS-32) fitting out along the Mobile River. USNI News Photo

In addition to the OPCs, in which Austal beat both original shipbuilder Eastern and Ingalls, Austal is positioning its steel line as a contender for a second line of the Constellation-class frigate following Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s Wisconsin yard and the Light Amphibious Warship.

Murdaugh declined to detail the yard’s plans for OPC, citing the ongoing protest from Eastern over the contract award to Austal.

Austal is also building components for the Virginia-class submarine program and aircraft elevators for aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-80) on its steel line.

The yard is also expanding its repair footprint. In 2020, the yard bought the defunct World of Marine Alabama and with it a floating drydock and 3,000 feet of shoreline on the opposite bank of the Mobile River.

A shipyard worker walks through the bow section of the future USNS Cody (EPF-14) at Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., on Aug. 3, 2022. USNI News Photo

“By buying the yard across the river, we not only got a dry dock that ensures that we’re in control of whenever we want to launch, but it gave us a lot more deep water,” Murdaugh said.

“That strategy actually worked quite well because they had said that repair work in the South is gone. We are booked through February [of 2023] and might be booked through June [soon].”

Austal has also expanded its repair business to San Diego – home of the Independence-class ships — by finalizing a deal with the Port of San Diego to construct a facility and add a dry dock to a parcel adjacent to Naval Base San Diego on 32nd St.

“We’ve changed our strategic plan, we’ve changed our arrangement of our folks, and it’s not static, it evolves as we evolve,” Murdaugh said.

“But now we got to the point where we’re in a high growth mode, and we still have lots of capacity to fill, so that the organization will just continue to go wider instead of deeper.”

Halter Marine

Halter Marine Aug. 5, 2022. USNI News Photo

Tucked in the shallow Bayou Cassotte in Pascagoula, just west of the Alabama state line, is Halter Marine’s remaining Gulf Coast yard. At the height of the offshore oil and gas boom in the 2010s, its Singapore parent snapped up yards up and down the Gulf Coast to meet the commercial demand.

When the boom turned bust starting in 2017, Halter consolidated to one new construction yard and retooled to exclusively focus on government work, while separate sister yard ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore concentrated on repair for oil and gas ships and platforms. The waterfront has clear access to the Gulf Coast, making it ideal for deeper drafting ships.

In 2019, the yard won a $745.9 million design contract to build the first heavy icebreaker for the Coast Guard, with options for two more for a total of $1.9 billion if all the options are exercised.

In 2020, Halter installed Bob Merchent – retired HII vice president for surface combatants – as the head of the yard to oversee the construction of the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter. The yard also brought on retired Rear Adm. Ronald Rábago, who led Coast Guard acquisition before retiring in 2014.

“We’d say, number one, it’s a complex vessel in the sense of its mission set. We haven’t delivered a heavy icebreaker in this country for over 40 years. The last one was Polar Star and the technology has changed dramatically,” Rábago told USNI News in an interview at the Mississippi yard.

To accommodate the construction of the 23,000-ton icebreaker, the yard went through its own capital improvement plan, including strengthening the ground on which it will build the ship.

“We put in over 1,000 piles into the ground over 80 [feet deep]and then put a concrete cap that is going to be able to support the Polar Security Cutter going forward,” Rábago said.

Additionally, the yard has invested in robotic welding machines to handle the different thicknesses of the steel required for the heavy hull of the icebreaker.

“We just finished the testing and commissioning of new welding robots that are able to do really remarkable things,” Rábago said. “This is going to be really important for the Polar Security Cutter because of the thickness of the steel in the lower sections.”

Yard leaders told USNI News that the company is on the cusp of finalizing the design. They did not mention a date, but noted the ships’ auxiliary systems are at the yard ready to be installed and that most of the steel for the icebreaker is already on site.

Hull section at Halter Marine on Aug. 5, 2022. USNI News Photo

In addition to the Polar Security Cutter, Halter is considering competing for the Navy’s Light Amphibious Warship. The yard is currently building amphibious tank-landing ships for an unspecified foreign customer and would use the design as a basis for a LAW bid. Halter is also building the latest Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship (T-AGS-67) for Military Sealift Command and berthing barges for the Navy.

Halter is also exploring the potential to partner with other companies to provide hulls for autonomous ships as the Navy explores more unmanned vessels for the fleet.

“The base platform is a vessel. It’s a ship. It’ll have propulsion plant. It’ll have a navigation system,” Merchent said. “It’s just the interfaces and some of the physical layout arrangements will be different for the autonomous mission. We’re shipbuilders, we know how to build ships.”

HII Set to Install First Hypersonic Missiles on USS Zumwalt, USS Michael Monsoor During Repair Period

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 […]

Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002) at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., on Aug. 4, 2022 USNI News Photo

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).