Vertical Launching System
A vertical launching system (VLS) is a system for holding and firing missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

s on surface ships and submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s used by many navies
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 around the world. Each VLS 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 VLS 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 Mk-13
Mk 13 Missile Launcher
The Mk-13 guided missile launching system is a single-arm missile launcher designed for use on frigates and other military vessels.The Mark 13 is equipped to fire the RIM-66 Standard, RGM-84 Harpoon, and RIM-24 Tartar missiles for anti-air and anti-ship defense, and is capable of firing the...

 single-arm and Mk-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 destroyer
Guided missile destroyer
A guided missile destroyer is a destroyer designed to launch guided missiles. Many are also equipped to carry out anti-submarine, anti-air, and anti-surface operations. In the U.S...

s and cruiser
A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...


The most popular VLS system in the world is the Mk 41
Mark 41 Vertical Launch System
The Mark 41 Vertical Launch System is a shipborne missle canister launching system which provides a rapid-fire launch capability against hostile threats. The Vertical Launch System concept was derived from work on the Aegis Combat System. Refinement of the concept continued through the 1960s and...

, developed by the US Navy. More than 11,000 MK 41 VLS missile cells have been delivered, or are on order, for use on 186 ships and 19 ship classes, in 11 navies around the world. This system currently serves with the US Navy as well as the Australian, Canadian, Dutch, German, Japanese, New Zealand, Norwegian, South Korean, Spanish, and Turkish navies.

The advanced Mk 57 VLS system is projected to be used on the new Zumwalt class destroyer
Zumwalt class destroyer
The Zumwalt class destroyer is a planned class of United States Navy destroyers, designed as multi-mission ships with a focus on land attack. The class is a scaled-back project that emerged after funding cuts to the larger DD-21 vessel program. The program was previously known as the "DD"...

. The older Mk-13 and Mk-26 systems remain in service on ships that were sold to other countries such as Taiwan, Greece, and Poland.

When installed on a SSN (nuclear-powered attack submarine), a VLS allows a greater number and variety of weapons to be deployed in comparison to using only torpedo tube
Torpedo tube
A torpedo tube is a device for launching torpedoes. There are two main types of torpedo tube: underwater tubes fitted to submarines and some surface ships, and deck-mounted units installed aboard surface vessels...


Hot launch and cold launch

A VLS system can be either hot launch, where the missile ignites in the cell, or cold launch, where the missile is ejected and then the missile ignites. A hot launch system does not require an ejection mechanism, but does require some way of disposing of the missiles 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.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 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
SYLVER launcher
The Sylver is a vertical missile launcher designed by DCNS. The launcher comes in several variants, each distinguished by their height...

 system in PAAMS
The Principal Anti Air Missile System is a joint French/Italian/British programme for a naval anti-aircraft weapon. The prime contractor is EUROPAAMS, a joint venture between Eurosam and MBDA subsidiary UKAMS . MBDA also owns 66% of Eurosam, in effect giving it a 77% share of the project...

. Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 produces both grid systems and a revolver
A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first revolver ever made was built by Elisha Collier in 1818. The percussion cap revolver was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon became known as the Colt Paterson...

 design with more than one missile per lid. Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 also uses a cold launch system for some of its VLS missile systems, e.g., the Tor missile system. The People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 uses a circular "cold launch" system that ejects the missile from the launch tube before igniting the engine.

Systems by nations

  • Adelaide class frigate
    Adelaide class frigate
    The Adelaide class is a ship class of six guided missile frigates constructed in Australia and the United States of America for service in the Royal Australian Navy. The class is based on the United States Navy's Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, but modified for Australian requirements...

     - Mk 41 (8 cells)
  • Anzac class frigate
    Anzac class frigate
    The Anzac class is a ship class of ten frigates; eight operated by the Royal Australian Navy and two operated by the Royal New Zealand Navy...

     - Mk 41 (8 cells)

  • Iroquois class destroyer
    Iroquois class destroyer
    Iroquois-class destroyers, also known as Tribal class, are a class of four helicopter-carrying, guided missile destroyers of the Canadian Forces. Launched in the 1970s, they were originally fitted out for anti-submarine warfare, but a major upgrade programme in the 1990s overhauled them for...

     - Mk 41 (29 cells)

  • Charles de Gaulle (R91) aircraft carrier - SYLVER (32 cells)
  • Horizon class frigate
    Horizon class frigate
    The Horizon Common New Generation Frigate is a multi-national collaboration to produce a new generation of anti-air warfare frigates. Originally an alliance of Britain, France and Italy, the project is now a French/Italian effort following the withdrawal of Britain due to differing requirements...

     - SYLVER (48 cells)

  • Van Speijk class frigate
    Van Speijk class frigate
    The Van Speijk class frigate were built for the Royal Netherlands Navy in the 1960s. They were versions of the British Leander class frigates with Dutch radars. The British design was chosen in order to enable rapid construction in order to replace elderly destroyer escorts. The ships were...

     - SS-26 Yakhont VLS (4 cells)

  • Cavour (550) aircraft carrier - SYLVER (32 cells)
  • Horizon class frigate
    Horizon class frigate
    The Horizon Common New Generation Frigate is a multi-national collaboration to produce a new generation of anti-air warfare frigates. Originally an alliance of Britain, France and Italy, the project is now a French/Italian effort following the withdrawal of Britain due to differing requirements...

     - SYLVER (48 cells)

  • Atago class destroyer
    Atago class destroyer
    The is an improved version of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force 's Kongō class destroyers. It is a Japanese variant of the United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer ....

     - Mk 41 (96 cells)
  • Kongō class destroyer
    Kongo class destroyer
    The of guided missile destroyers serves as the core ship of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force 's Escort Flotillas. They are a modification of the United States Navy's Arleigh Burke class .-Design:...

     - Mk 41 (90 cells)

  • De Zeven Provinciën class frigate
    De Zeven Provinciën class frigate
    The De Zeven Provinciën class frigates are highly advanced air-defence and command frigates in service with the Koninklijke Marine . This class of ships is also known as LCF...

     - Mk 41 (40 cells)

  • Fridtjof Nansen class frigate
    Fridtjof Nansen class frigate
    The Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates are the main surface combatant units of the Royal Norwegian Navy. The ships are named after famous Norwegian explorers, with the lead ship of the class bearing the name of Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian scientist, explorer and humanitarian.Five ships were ordered...

     - Mk 41 (32 cells)

  • Formidable class frigate
    Formidable class frigate
    The Formidable class multi-role stealth frigates are the latest surface platforms to enter into service with the Republic of Singapore Navy, and are multi-mission derivatives of the French Navy’s La Fayette class frigate. The frigates are key information nodes and fighting units, and are described...

     - SYLVER (32 cells)

  • Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin class destroyer - Mk 41 (32 cells) + K-VLS (32 cells)
  • King Sejong the Great class destroyer - Mk 41 (80 cells) + K-VLS (48 cells)

  • Álvaro de Bazán class frigate
    Álvaro de Bazán class frigate
    The Álvaro de Bazán class are a new class of Aegis combat system-equipped air defense frigates entering service with the Spanish Navy...

     - Mk 41 (48 cells)

  • Type 45 destroyer
    Type 45 destroyer
    The United Kingdom's Type 45 destroyer is an air defence destroyer programme of the Royal Navy which will replace its Type 42 destroyers. The first ship in the class, HMS Daring, was launched on 1 February 2006 and commissioned on 23 July 2009. The ships are now built by BAE Systems Surface Ships...

     - SYLVER (48 cells)

  • G class frigate
    G class frigate
    The G class is one of the frigate classes of the Turkish Navy. They are extensively modernized versions of ex-Oliver Hazard Perry class guided-missile frigates, mainly designed for air defense with a weapons configuration that is optimized for general warfare.-Modernization:The G class frigates...

    - 8 cell VLS
  • Barbaros class frigate
    Barbaros class frigate
    The Barbaros-class frigates are the most modern frigates in the Turkish Navy. They were designed in Germany and are part of the MEKO group of modular warships, in this case the MEKO 200 design. Two ships were built in Germany and two in Turkey with German assistance...

    - VLS Mk 41 Mod.8

  • Arleigh Burke class destroyer
    Arleigh Burke class destroyer
    The Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers is the United States Navy's first class of destroyer built around the Aegis combat system and the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar. The class is named for Admiral Arleigh "31-Knot" Burke, the most famous American destroyer officer of...

     - Mk 41 (96 cells)
  • Ticonderoga class cruiser
    Ticonderoga class cruiser
    The Ticonderoga class of missile cruisers is a class of warships in the United States Navy, first ordered and authorized in FY 1978. The class uses phased-array radar and was originally planned as a class of destroyers...

     - Mk 41 (122 cells)

External links

  • Mk 41 VLS - Federation of American Scientists
    Federation of American Scientists
    The Federation of American Scientists is a nonpartisan, 501 organization intent on using science and scientific analysis to attempt make the world more secure. FAS was founded in 1945 by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs...

  • MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) -, launched in 2000, is a public policy organization focusing on the fields of defense, space exploration, intelligence, weapons of mass destruction and homeland security...

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