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The talk of a planned deployment of hypersonic missiles to Europe comes less than a week after O’Brien announced the US Navy would arm the new Virginia-class submarines and Zumwalt-class destroyers with the superweapons.
“Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability,” O’Brien said, according to Breaking Defense. This apparently caught the Navy by surprise, as there were no budget plans to retrofit the aging destroyers with a technology that does not yet exist.
That’s the other trouble with O’Brien’s announcements, as the Army and the Navy are still working on developing the actual hypersonic missile, and don’t expect to field the first land battery before 2023 at the earliest – with the sea-launched version taking even longer. While there have been a couple of tests of a glide vehicle, the booster for it is reportedly still in the design stage.
“Our goal is to have an early capability in the mid ‘20s,” Vice-Admiral Johnny Wolfe, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, told Breaking Defense in April. “We’re trying to take a methodical approach to this, as we work through this to make sure we get it right.”
Meanwhile, the Zumwalts – futuristic designs costing $8 billion apiece, only three of which have been built so far – have “cost too much, done too little, and the Pentagon’s rhetoric on them falls far short of reality,” according to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a US watchdog.
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