The US Navy’s most advanced surface warship is showing its stealthy profile in the western Pacific on a mission that may set the stage for the eventual deployment of US hypersonic missiles to the region.
The USS Zumwalt is the first in a class of three multimission guided missile destroyers the Navy says will “create a new level of battlespace complexity for potential adversaries.”
In the Pacific, one of those potential adversaries is obviously China, and the Zumwalt will certainly get Beijing’s attention.
“The presence of a stealth warship will draw a great deal of (Chinese) interest,” especially if the Zumwalt is outfitted with hypersonic weapons, said analyst Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain.
And that time may not be far off.
An August report from the US Naval Institute said the Zumwalt will be upgraded next year to accommodate the Pentagon’s Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB), a weapons system that uses a booster rocket motor to fire missiles at hypersonic speed.
According to a May 2022 Congressional Research Service report, “the C-HGB is to be maneuverable, making it more difficult to detect and intercept and can travel at Mach 5 or higher … at least five times faster than the speed of sound or up to 13,000 miles (20,921 kilometers) per hour.
“The C-HGB is intended to be able to destroy targets by virtue of its velocity alone,” the report said.
After making a port call in Guam last week, the Zumwalt arrived in Japan on Monday, US Navy 7th Fleet spokesperson Lt. Mark Langford said.
A Navy statement said the warship has been assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, the US Navy’s largest destroyer squadron based outside of the United States, operating out of Yokosuka Naval Base near Tokyo.
Zumwalt “plays in integral role in maintaining our competitive edge and assuring our allies and partners in the region,” said Lt. Katherine Serrano, a spokesperson for Destroyer Squadron 15.