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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.


Vertical Launching 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.