More than 60 U.S. Navy destroyers eventually will be outfitted with hypersonic weapons, White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Wednesday as he laid out a massive logistical undertaking but one that the Pentagon believes is necessary for 21st-century warfare.
Speaking at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Mr. O’Brien said hypersonic missiles — which can travel at five times the speed of sound or faster — will give the American military crucial new long-range capabilities. Hypersonics eventually will be a key piece of vessels across the Navy.
“The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will provide hypersonic missile capability to hold targets at risk from longer ranges,” Mr. O’Brien said, as quoted by the outlet Defense News, which is traveling with the White House adviser this week.
“This capability will be deployed first on our newer Virginia class submarines and the Zumwalt class destroyers,” he said. “Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke class destroyers will field this capability.”
Hypersonic weapons are a top priority inside the Defense Department. Washington’s top rivals, Russia and China, are making huge investments into the technology, and Moscow claims it already has hypersonic systems that are capable of defeating any U.S. anti-missile technology in existence today.
Military leaders and defense analysts generally agree that the U.S. failed over the past decade to make the necessary investments into hypersonics, though the Pentagon has addressed that shortfall in recent years with a significant increase in funding and resources.
But equipping all Navy destroyers with hypersonic weapons would be incredibly expensive and physically challenging. Mr. O’Brien did not lay out a specific timetable for the proposal, but it almost surely will be decades before the goal can be realized.
The U.S. has 62 Arleigh Burke class ships in its fleet, according to the Navy.
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