Vertical launching system

A vertical launching system (VLS) is an advanced system for holding and firing missiles on mobile naval platforms, such as surface ships and submarines. Each vertical launch system consists of a number of cells, which can hold one or more missiles ready for firing. Typically, each cell can hold a number of different types of missiles, allowing the ship flexibility to load the best set for any given mission. Further, when new missiles are developed, they are typically fitted to the existing vertical launch systems of that nation, allowing existing ships to use new types of missiles without expensive rework. When the command is given, the missile flies straight up long enough to clear the cell and the ship, and then turns on course.

A VLS allows surface combatants to have a greater number of weapons ready for firing at any given time compared to older launching systems such as the Mark 13 single-arm and Mark 26 twin-arm launchers, which were fed from behind by a magazine below the main deck. In addition to greater firepower, VLS is much more damage tolerant and reliable than the previous systems, and has a lower radar cross-section (RCS). The U.S. Navy now relies exclusively on VLS for its guided missile destroyers and cruisers.

The most widespread vertical launch system in the world is the Mark 41, developed by the United States Navy. More than 11,000 Mark 41 VLS missile cells have been delivered, or are on order, for use on 186 ships across 19 ship classes, in 11 navies around the world. This system currently serves with the US Navy as well as the Australian, Danish, Dutch, German, Japanese, New Zealand, Norwegian, South Korean, Spanish, and Turkish navies, while others like the Greek Navy preferred the similar Mark 48 system.[1]

The advanced Mark 57 vertical launch system is used on the new Zumwalt-class destroyer. The older Mark 13 and Mark 26 systems remain in service on ships that were sold to other countries such as Taiwan and Poland.

When installed on an SSN (nuclear-powered attack submarine), a VLS allows a greater number and variety of weapons to be deployed, compared with using only torpedo tubes.

US Navy 030303-N-3235P-503 A topside view of the forward MK-41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56)
The VLS cells on board USS San Jacinto
US Navy 050110-N-9851B-056 Sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) stabilize a crate containing a Tomahawk cruise missile
A Tomahawk missile canister being loaded into a VLS aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur

Hot launch and cold launch

VLS MK41 Missile Launch
Diagram depicting a hot launch from a Mark 41 VLS
SM-2 Block IV 080605-N-0000X-006
A RIM-156A missile launching from a VLS cell on USS Lake Erie in 2008.
US Navy 090825-N-1522S-020 A Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile launches from the forward missile deck aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) during a training exercise
US Navy Mark 41 Tomahawk hot launch.

A vertical launch system can be either hot launch, where the missile ignites in the cell, or cold launch, where the missile is expelled by gas produced by a gas generator which is not part of the missile itself, and then the missile ignites. "Cold" means relatively cold compared with rocket engine exhaust. A hot launch system does not require an ejection mechanism, but does require some way of disposing of the missile's exhaust and heat as it leaves the cell. If the missile ignites in a cell without an ejection mechanism, the cell must withstand the tremendous heat generated without igniting the missiles in the adjacent cells.

An advantage of a hot-launch system is that the missile propels itself out of the launching cell using its own engine, which eliminates the need for a separate system to eject the missile from the launching tube. This potentially makes a hot-launch system relatively light, small, and economical to develop and produce, particularly when designed around smaller missiles. A potential disadvantage is that a malfunctioning missile could destroy the launch tube.

The advantage of the cold-launch system is in its safety: should a missile engine malfunction during launch, the cold-launch system can eject the missile thereby reducing or eliminating the threat. For this reason, Russian VLSs are often designed with a slant so that a malfunctioning missile will land in the water instead of on the ship's deck. As missile size grows, the benefits of ejection launching increase. Above a certain size, a missile booster cannot be safely ignited within the confines of a ship's hull. Most modern ICBMs and SLBMs are cold-launched.

American surface-ship VLSs have the missile cells arranged in a grid with one lid per cell and are "hot launch" systems; the engine ignites within the cell during the launch, and thus it requires exhaust piping for the missile flames and gasses. France, Italy and Britain use a similar hot-launching Sylver system in PAAMS. Russia produces both grid systems and a revolver design with more than one missile per lid. Russia also uses a cold launch system for some of its vertical launch missile systems, e.g., the Tor missile system. The People's Republic of China (PRC) uses a Concentric Canister Launch (CCL) system that can launch using both hot and cold method. Prior to the CCL, some of the surface combatants featured a circular "cold launch" system that ejects the missile from the launch tube before igniting the engine on the Type 052C destroyer, and other parts of the fleet featured rectangular ”hot launch" systems, with one lid per cell arranged in a grid on the Type 054A frigate.[2]

Other platforms

Transporter erector launchers are wheeled or tracked land vehicles for the launch of surface to air and surface to surface missiles. In most systems the missiles are transported in a horizontal out of battery configuration: in order to fire, the vehicle must stop and the transport/launch tube must be raised to the vertical before firing.

BAe has filed patents relating to the use of Vertical Launch missiles from modified passenger aircraft.[3]

Systems in use by nations

 People's Republic of China
VLS Caio Duilio
SYLVER cells of Italian destroyer Caio Duilio
 New Zealand
  • Anzac class frigate – Mark 41 (8 cells)
 South Korea
SA-N-9 (battlecruiser Frunze, 1987).JPEG
Soviet missile cruiser Frunze firing a missile from the Tor VLS
US Navy 031109-N-9769P-076 Guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) steams in the Southern California operating area
Top view of the Ticonderoga-class USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) with VLS visible fore and aft as the gray boxes near the bow and stern of the ship.
 South Africa
 United Kingdom
 United States
VLS MK41 Canister Types
VLS Mark 41 Canister Types

See also


  1. ^ Preview ofTable of contents (2016-07-08). "Naval Swiss Army Knife: MK 41 Vertical Missile Launch Systems (VLS)". Archived from the original on 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
  2. ^ Joe, Rick (8 June 2018). "All You Need to Know About China's New Stealth Destroyer". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Patent US7540227 – Air based vertical launch ballistic missile defense – Google Patents". 2003-05-06. Archived from the original on 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-04-01.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

Armored Box Launcher

The Mark 143 Armored Box Launcher (ABL) is a four-round protected launch container for the BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise Missile.

Fitted to the Iowa-class battleship following their 1980s recommissioning upgrade, each ABL contains four ready-to-fire Tomahawks. The use of ABLs on these vessels rather than a non-armored solution was necessitated to enable the battleships to continue to exploit the capability provided by their heavy armor and reduce the vulnerability of the delicate missiles within. Eight ABLs were fitted to each of the four recommissioned battleships, providing 32 weapons to each ship. Some of the original dual 5 inch (127 mm) gun mounts were removed to fit the ABLs.

As well as being fitted on to the United States Navy's Iowa-class battleships, this system was also fitted on the nuclear-powered cruisers, including the USS Long Beach and the Virginia class as well as some Spruance classs. The cruisers and destroyers were fitted with two ABLs each for a total of 8 missiles.

Since then the Armored Box Launcher missile system has been phased out in favor of the more flexible, larger capacity Vertical Launching System (VLS). Some of the Spruance-class ships formerly fitted with ABLs were later refitted with VLS.

The Armored Box Launcher shares one common handicap with the Vertical Launching System: It can not be reloaded at sea. The ship must return to port in order to receive and load her ABLs.

Cruise missile submarine

A cruise missile submarine is a submarine that carries and launches cruise missiles (SLCMs) as its primary armament. Cruise missiles and dedicated anti-ship missiles greatly enhance a vessel's ability to attack surface combatants. Torpedoes are a more stealthy option, but missiles give a much longer stand-off range, as well as the ability to engage multiple targets on different headings at the same time. Many cruise missile submarines retain the capability to deploy nuclear warheads on their missiles, but they are considered distinct from ballistic missile submarines due to the substantial differences between the two weapons systems' characteristics.

Originally early designs of cruise missile submarines had to surface to launch their missiles, while later designs could do so underwater via dedicated vertical launching system (VLS) tubes. Many modern attack submarines can launch cruise missiles (and dedicated anti-ship missiles) from their torpedo tubes while some designs also incorporate a small number of VLS canisters, giving some significant overlap between cruise missile submarines and traditional attack submarines. Nonetheless, vessels classified as attack submarines still use torpedoes as their main armament and have a more multi-role mission profile due to their greater speed and maneuverability, in contrast to cruise missile submarines which are typically larger slower boats focused on the long distance surface strike role.

The United States Navy's hull classification symbols for cruise missile submarines are SSG and SSGN – the SS denotes submarine, the G denotes guided missile, and the N denotes that the submarine is nuclear-powered.

GJB 5860-2006

GJB 5860-2006 (Chinese: 国家军用标准 5860-2006; pinyin: Guo-jia Jun-yong 5860-2006; literally: 'National Military Standard 5860-2006') is a Chinese military technical standard describing a vertical launching system (VLS) for all types of missiles aboard surface combatants.Cells have a square crosssection with 850 millimetres (33 in) sides, and may be 9 m (30 ft), 7 m (23 ft), or 3.3 m (11 ft) deep. Each cell carries one missile; the shortest cell may carry four missiles. Hot and cold launches are supported; hot launching uses the concentric canister launch (CCL) approach with exhaust vents within each launch cell.The first operational implementation is believed to be the VLS aboard the People's Liberation Army Navy's Type 052D destroyer.

Horizon-class frigate

The Horizon class is a class of air-defence destroyers in service with the French Navy and the Italian Navy, locally known as frigates though they are classified as destroyers using NATO classification. The programme started as the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF), a multi-national collaboration to produce a new generation of air-defence frigates. In Italy the class is known as the Orizzonte class, which translates to "horizon" in French and English. The UK then joined France and Italy in the Horizon-class frigate programme; however, differing national requirements, workshare arguments and delays led to the UK withdrawing on 26 April 1999 and starting its own national project, the Type 45 destroyer.The FREMM multipurpose frigate are currently under construction using the same company structure as the Horizon project.

Korean Vertical Launching System

The Korean Vertical Launching System (K-VLS or KVLS) is a vertical launch weapon system developed by South Korea to be deployed by the Republic of Korea Navy. It is used in the Sejong the Great-class destroyer, and is scheduled to be added to the Daegu-class frigate. The K-VLS can deploy the Cheolmae-2 air defense missile, Hong Sang Eo anti-submarine missile, Haeseong-II, Hyunmoo-3 land attack cruise missiles and even SLBMs.

Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems

Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems (LM RMS), formerly known as Mission Systems and Sensors (LM MS2) and then Mission Systems & Training (LM MST), is a Lockheed Martin business segment, headquartered in Washington, DC. Until October 2008 MST was headquartered in Moorestown Township, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia; Moorestown remains the largest site in the business unit and is where many of the unit's top executives have their offices. As of 2013, MST is one of Lockheed Martin's five operating units; prior to that it was a part of the now-defunct Electronic Systems sector. MST was formerly known as Maritime Systems and Sensors (MS2) and prior to that NESS (Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems). Dale Bennett is the current president of MST.

Current major products of MST include the Aegis combat system, the Mk41 Vertical Launching System, the Desert Hawk UAV, the AN/UYQ-70 display system, the AN/UYK-43 and AN/UYK-44 computers, AN/SPY-1 naval RADAR systems, AN/SQQ-89 SONAR system, P-3 Orion mission systems, and tactical avionics for the F-35 Lightning II and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Products in development include the Space Fence radar, Integrated Deepwater System Program (in partnership with Northrop Grumman), Medium Extended Air Defense System, and the Littoral Combat Ship.

Mark 41 Vertical Launching System

The Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (Mk 41 VLS) is a shipborne missile canister launching system which provides a rapid-fire launch capability against hostile threats. The Vertical Launch System (VLS) concept was derived from work on the Aegis Combat System.


The RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) is a development of the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile used to protect ships from attacking missiles and aircraft. ESSM is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. ESSM also has the ability to be "quad-packed" in the Mark 41 Vertical Launch System, allowing up to four ESSMs to be carried in a single cell.


The RUM-139 VL-ASROC is an anti-submarine missile in the ASROC family, currently built by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Navy.

Shang-class submarine

The Type 093 (Chinese: 09-III型核潜艇; Chinese designation: 09-III; NATO reporting name: Shang class) is a class of second generation nuclear-powered attack submarines deployed by the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force. The improved Type 093G (reported as Type 093A by Western analysts) is longer than the Type 093. The 093G is now confirmed having a vertical launching system (VLS) for YJ-18 supersonic anti-ship missiles, and anti-ship variants of the CJ-10 cruise missile.

They are constructed at the Bohai Shipyard in Huludao. These boats are expected to replace the older Type 091 submarines.

Standard Missile

Standard Missile refers to a family of American-made shipborne guided missiles:

RIM-66 Standard (SM-1MR/SM-2MR), a medium-range surface-to-air missile, the successor of the RIM-24 Tartar surface-to-air missile, currently in use by the U.S. Navy and many other navies around the world

RIM-67 Standard (SM-1ER/SM-2ER), an extended-range surface-to-air missile, the successor of the RIM-2 Terrier surface-to-air missile, withdrawn from service because it was too long to fit into vertical launching system equipped ships

AGM-78 Standard ARM, a long-range air-launched anti-radiation missile used by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force during the War in Vietnam

XAIM-97A Seekbat, a proposed long range air-to-air missile, based on the AGM-78, development was cancelled at the flight testing stage.

RIM-156A Standard, an extended-range surface-to-air missile, a VLS version of the RIM-67 Standard

RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3), a ship-launched anti-ballistic missile, originally based on the SM-2ER Block IV (RIM-156).

RIM-174 Standard ERAM (SM-6), an upgraded version of the SM-2. It is designed to intercept both hostile aircraft and high-performance anti-ship missiles.

Sylver Vertical Launching System

The Sylver (SYstème de Lancement VERtical) is a vertical launching system (VLS) designed by DCNS. The launcher comes in several variants, each distinguished by their height. A-35 and A-43 were developed for launching short range surface-to-air missiles, the A-50 for the long-range PAAMS air defense system, and the A-70 launcher for larger missiles such as the SCALP Naval land attack cruise missile. The numbers refer to the approximate length of the missile which can be accommodated, in decimetres, i.e. the A-43 can hold missiles which are up to 4.3 metres long whilst the A-70 can accommodate missiles up to 7 metres long.

The launchers come in eight-cell modules, except A-35 available in four-cell modules, with each eight-cell module occupying six square metres of deck space. Inner size cell is 60 cm long and 56 cm wide, and each cell has its own exhaust vent. Crotale NG (VT1) missiles can be quad-packed in one cell.

The primary application of the launcher has been the Aster. The Sylver, together with the Aster, is the primary component of the PAAMS naval anti-air warfare system. Using PAAMS, up to eight missiles can be launched in 10 seconds.

The French Navy has initiated studies to convert the SCALP EG cruise missile to be capable of launch from the Sylver. This missile, the SCALP Naval, would give France a land attack capability in the mould of the U.S. Tomahawk.

Ticonderoga-class cruiser

The Ticonderoga class of guided-missile cruisers is a class of warships in the United States Navy, first ordered and authorized in the 1978 fiscal year. The class uses passive phased-array radar and was originally planned as a class of destroyers. However, the increased combat capability offered by the Aegis Combat System and the AN/SPY-1 radar system, together with the capability of operating as a flagship, were used to justify the change of the classification from DDG (guided missile destroyer) to CG (guided-missile cruiser) shortly before the keels were laid down for Ticonderoga and Yorktown.

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers are multi-role warships. Their Mk 41 VLS can launch Tomahawk cruise missiles to strike strategic or tactical targets, or fire long-range antiaircraft Standard Missiles for defense against aircraft or anti-ship missiles. Their LAMPS III helicopters and sonar systems allow them to perform antisubmarine missions. Ticonderoga-class ships are designed to be elements of carrier battle groups or amphibious ready groups, as well as performing missions such as interdiction or escort. With upgrades to their AN/SPY-1 phased radar systems and their associated missile payloads as part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, members of this class have, in successive tests, repeatedly demonstrated their proficiency as mobile anti-ballistic missile and anti-satellite weaponry platforms.

Of the 27 completed vessels, 19 were built by Ingalls Shipbuilding and eight by Bath Iron Works (BIW). All but one (Thomas S. Gates) of the ships in the class are named for noteworthy events in U.S. military history, and at least twelve share their names with World War II-era aircraft carriers. In 2016, 22 ships were still active and expected to serve for 35 years since commissioning.

Transporter erector launcher

A transporter erector launcher (TEL) is a missile vehicle with an integrated prime mover (tractor unit) that can carry, elevate to firing position and launch one or more missiles. Such vehicles exist for both surface-to-air missiles and surface-to-surface missiles. Early on, such missiles were launched from fixed sites and had to be loaded onto trucks for transport, making them more vulnerable to attack since once they were spotted by the enemy they could not easily be relocated, and if they were it often took hours or even days to prepare them for launch once they reached their new site.

The term can also refer to support structures used to transport a rocket launch vehicle horizontally from an assembly facility to a nearby fixed launch pad where it is raised vertical for launch. This system is used, for example, by SpaceX for its Falcon rockets.

A transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) is the same as a TEL but also incorporates part or all of the radar system necessary for firing the surface-to-air missile(s). Such vehicles have the capability of being autonomous, greatly enhancing their effectiveness. With this type of system each vehicle can fight regardless of the state or presence of support vehicles. The TEL or TELAR may have a rotating turntable that it can use to aim the missiles. The vehicle may have to turn to aim the missiles or they may fire straight up.

Conversely, a transporter launcher and radar (TLAR) is the same as a TELAR without the erector capability, because the missile in question is transported in the launch-ready position. An example is the 9K330 Tor, which mounts a Vertical Launching System-style block of SAMs.

Usually a number of TELs and TELARs are linked to one command post vehicle (CP or CPV). They may use target information from Target acquisition, designation and guidance radar (TADAGR) or, simply, TAR.

The Patriot missile system uses the abbreviation MEL (Mobile Erector Launchers) as a towed launch vehicle.

Type 052D destroyer

The Type 052D destroyer (NATO/OSD Luyang III-class destroyer) is a class of guided missile destroyers in the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy Surface Force. The Type 052D is a larger variant of the Type 052C; the Type 052D uses a canister-type, instead of revolver-type, vertical launching system (VLS) and has flat-panelled active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The new VLS is not limited to anti-air missiles, making the Type 052D China's first dedicated multi-role destroyer.Chinese media informally calls the Type 052D the Chinese Aegis, portraying it as a peer of contemporary United States Navy ships equipped with the Aegis Combat System. The appearance of the Type 052D, with flat-panelled radar and canister-based VLS, has encouraged the moniker's use.

USS Bunker Hill (CG-52)

USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) is a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser of the United States Navy laid down by Litton-Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation at Pascagoula, Mississippi on 11 January 1984, launched on 11 March 1985, and commissioned on 20 September 1986. Bunker Hill is homeported at Naval Base San Diego in San Diego, California.

Bunker Hill was the first Ticonderoga-class cruiser to be equipped with the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) in place of the previous ships' twin-arm Mark 26 missile launchers, which greatly improved the flexibility and firepower of the ships by allowing them to fire RGM-109 Tomahawk missiles.

USS Vincennes (CG-49)

USS Vincennes (CG-49) was a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser outfitted with the Aegis combat system that was in service with the United States Navy from July 1985 to June 2005. She was one of 27 ships of the Ticonderoga class constructed for the United States Navy, and one of five equipped with the Mark 26 Guided Missile Launching System.

Vincennes was commissioned in 1985, and saw service in the Pacific before being dispatched to the Persian Gulf in 1988 in support Operation Earnest Will during the Iran–Iraq War. Operating in this capacity the cruiser shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 passengers and sparking an international incident between Iran and the United States. Following the cessation of hostilities, Vincennes returned to the Pacific Fleet where she remained for the rest of her active career.

Vincennes was decommissioned in 2005 after attempts to retrofit the cruiser with the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System failed, and was initially laid up in the mothball fleet at Naval Base Kitsap, in Bremerton, Washington. In 2010 the vessel was towed to Texas for scrapping, which was completed in 2011.

UXV Combatant

The UXV Combatant is a concept warship designed by BVT Surface Fleet (now BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships), which was displayed at the Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) in 2007. Designed to "launch, operate and recover large numbers of small unmanned vehicles for extended periods, the UXV plays the role of mother ship - a permanent base and control centre for the futuristic unmanned land, sea and air vehicles before, during and on completion of their missions". UXV Combatant shares some common design features with the Type 45 destroyer.


VLS may refer to:

Vapor-Liquid-Solid method, a method of growing nanocrystals

Vermont Law School

Vertical Launching System for firing missiles

Von Luschan's chromatic scale of skin colour

West Flemish, a dialect in Belgium, ISO 639-3 code

Vertical Lift System, a style of Scissor doors

Valk Last Slot, A speed cubing method. See Mats Valk.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.