NSWC PHD supports the variety of systems that launch
missiles from ships. These include the Vertical Launching System (VLS), rail
launchers, and what are referred to as canister and box launchers.
In addition to providing the means for launching a missile,
the launcher also provides the electrical connections that allow the missile to
be programmed by the fire control system to hit its target after launch. And,
except for rail launchers, the launcher also provides the environmentally
controlled, secure, on board storage for the missile until its use.
The older rail and canister launchers are being phased out
on US Navy ships as the older ships are decommissioned. The Vertical Launching
System has been installed on all missile capable ships constructed in the past
few years. Box launchers are still prevalent for self-defense missile systems
such as the Rolling Airframe Missile and NATO Seasparrow Missile System.
The MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) is a fixed,
vertical, multi-missile storage and firing system that allows Navy vessels to
significantly increase their rate of fire. Since the missile is launched
vertically and then turns toward its target, there is no need for the launcher
to be aimed at the target or for the ship to maneuver prior to launch. The VLS
system also eliminates the time that was required for rail launchers to be
"re-loaded" for a follow on launch.
VLS currently supports missiles such as Tomahawk, Standard
Missile (BLIII, BL IV & SM3), Vertical Launch ASROC, and Evolved SeaSparrow
Missile. The VLS will also support the advanced Standard Missile (SM-6) that is
currently being tested.