While the People’s Liberation Army (PLAN) Navy continues to challenge the United States, the United States Navy plans to test its new hypersonic missile from the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt in December 2025.

The development was recently announced at the annual Combat Systems Symposium held by the American Society of Naval Engineers by Capt. Tyson Young, executive program officer for the Zumwalt Integrated Combat System.

Young is working on the technological and development adjustments necessary to install the hypersonic system on the Zumwalt. In addition, a virtual control system to launch the missiles will undergo laboratory tests in March before moving on to onboard tests.

“We are integrating an underwater weapons control system with [tactical support center] control to affect the transfer of data and messages to launch the missile,” Young said.

The Intermediate-Range Conventional Immediate Strike (IRCPS or CPS) is a hypersonic weapon designed to launch glide vehicle projectiles at least one mile per second with a range of more than 1,700 miles (Mach 5 ).

The Navy has made it plain that it intends to employ the CPS as a non-nuclear strategic weapon against heavily fortified targets such as command headquarters, air bases, radar, missile batteries, and depots holding substantial amounts of fuel or ammunition.

Young stated that the parameters of the integrated combat system used to trigger the Zumwalt-class hypersonic would be used to deploy and incorporate the hypersonic weapons aboard the Virginia-class attack submarines.

Navy efforts to deploy hypersonic weapons

The United States Navy gave Ingalls Shipbuilding of HII $10.5 million in early January 2023 to prepare for the Zumwalt and USS Michael Monsoor’s refit (DDG-1001).

The United States is also developing a scramjet-powered, rocket-boost-enabled hypersonic air-breathing weapon. The service reportedly has the ability to launch 12 missiles from each Zumwalt-class destroyer, as reported by EurAsian Times.

The US will test its Mach 5+ missile from the Zumwalt stealth destroyer in 2025

The only surface warships currently planning to integrate CPS missiles are the 16,000-tonne Zumwalt and its only two sister ships, the Michael Monsoor and the Lyndon B. Johnson.

These missiles will replace the two large artillery turrets that were its main defense but were removed because the ammunition needed was too expensive per shot.

In addition, the Navy plans to outfit twenty future Virginia-class attack submarines with up to twelve CPS missiles each, granting them the land-attack capability.Due to delays in finishing construction of the USS Arizona, the first VPM-enhanced Virginia, the first test launch from a submarine is anticipated for the year 2028.

The CPS is the result of a joint Army-Navy effort to develop a Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) that, after being propelled into the air by two booster rockets, delivers a hypersonic glide vehicle that glides just above the atmosphere in the direction of its target.

The Army’s variant, the Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) or Dark Eagle, is expected to reach service in 2023.Each battery consists of eight missiles and is deployed by launch trailers towed by M983 trucks. It will be used in the Multidomain Task Force’s new long-range precision fire battalions.

Nonetheless, there have been some difficulties during test launches. Extreme efforts are being made by the service to conquer these challenges.

Both the Zumwalt and the submarines are, to varying degrees, stealth platforms with a good chance of swooping down at close range to ground targets to launch their missiles without being discovered and sunk. Afterward, both ships will have to return to port to reload.

There is speculation that the Navy may equip its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and massive Ohio-class SSGN submarines carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles with CPS missiles in the future. 

Yet, no formal announcement of these plans has been made.

In order to repel potential threats, the US military is speeding up the development of hypersonic weapons. Russia and China have made public boasts about their unique hypersonic weapons, and despite possessing alternatives, the United States may feel pressed to match their capabilities.

Hypersonic glide weapons attack with a shallower trajectory than a standard ballistic missile with a predictable steep arc, making them more difficult to identify and track. They are also more maneuverable, allowing them to operate through air defense zones.