US Navy likely to commit to hypersonic deployments by 2025
By William Davies, associate aerospace and defence analyst at GlobalData
The US Navy has outlined a more specific timing for the deployment of hypersonic weapons currently under development. Officials said in November that hypersonic deployment was a priority and would happen on submarines by 2025.
Previously, the navy had only committed to a vague mid-2020’s timeline so this is progress towards a move out of the development stage and underscores the navy’s priority to develop the conventional prompt strike programme as an alternative to long-range nuclear weapons.
The recent statement by the US Navy expresses clear confidence that the development of hypersonic weapons will result in deployable technology in the near future. The navy is currently funding the conventional prompt strike programme and has requested over $1bn for hypersonic spending in 2021. Moving to production and deployment as well as reconfiguring weapons systems on relevant vessels would require increased funding over the next five years.
The exact submarines and ships that would initially be equipped with hypersonic weapons have previously been announced as being Block V Virginia-class submarines, with Ohio-class submarines following later in the decade. In the surface fleet, the capability will first be fitted to the Zumwalt-class destroyers following the Virginia class. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will also be equipped, despite the cost of structural modifications necessary to this older platform.
This announcement follows an update earlier in November that the Pentagon is expanding its hypersonics transitions office, the department in charge of transitioning these weapons from development to an official programme, which is key to the future fielding of weapons.
The navy’s success in testing the hypersonic glide body has given it confidence that it is approaching the production stage, and the next challenge it faces is getting the industrial base capacity to the appropriate level.
For more defence industry comment and analysis, visit GlobalData’s Aerospace, Defense & Security Intelligence Centre.
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