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A Tomahawk missile being launched from the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System aboard United States Navy destroyer USS Farragut

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.[1] The Vertical Launch System (VLS) concept was derived from work on the Aegis Combat System.[2]

Mk 41[]

Refinement of the initial concept of Aegis system in the 1960s continued through the 1960s and 1970s, and the Mk 41 was conceived in 1976.[2] Originally, the system was only intended to fire the RIM-66 Standard missile, but after the United States Navy decided that all VLS had to be capable of firing the Tomahawk missile, with a consequential increase in the height of the Mk 41 to accommodate the larger missile.[2] The prototype for the launcher was tested and evaluated onboard USS Norton Sound (AVM-1). The first operational launcher was installed aboard USS Bunker Hill.[2]

A single 8-cell Mk 41 VLS module fitted to New Zealand frigate HMNZS Te Kaha

The Mk 41 is capable of firing the following missiles: RIM-66 Standard, RIM-67 Standard, RIM-161 Standard Missile 3, RIM-174 Standard ERAM, Tomahawk (missile), RUM-139 VL-ASROC, RIM-7 Sea Sparrow, and RIM-162 ESSM.[2] The missiles are pre-loaded into "canisters", which are then loaded into the individual "cells" of the launcher (the exception is the ESSM: up to four canisters can fit into each launcher cell).[2] Launcher cells are fitted to ships in 2×4 modules that share a common exhaust system sited between the two rows.[2] Mk 41 VLS adopts modular design concept, which result in different versions that vary in size and weight due to different "canisters" in various modules. The length comes in three sizes: 209 inches for the self-defense version, 266 inches for the tactical version, and 303 inches for the strike version. The empty weight for a 8-cell module is 26,800 pounds for the self-defense version, 29,800 pounds for the tactical version, and 32,000 pounds for the strike version.[2] Originally, one module would consist of five cells and a collapsible crane for assisting with replenishment at sea, but replenishment of large missiles at sea was impractical and dangerous, and modules with the cranes fell out of use.[2]

Mk 57[]

Mk 57 VLS is the development of Mk 41 VLS. Developed by Raytheon, the primary improvement of Mk 57 GMVLS (guided missile vertical launching system) over Mk 41 is its gas management system that can accommodate new missile designs having up to 45 percent greater rocket motor mass flow rate than that of Mk 41.[3]

Vertical Missile Launcher Mk 57 GMVLS
# of missiles 4
Width (ft) 7.25
length (ft) 14.2
Height (ft) 26
Weight (lb) 33,600
Max encanistered weight (lb) 9,020

Mk 41 VLS in use by nations[]

Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
 New Zealand
 South Korea
United States

See also[]

Sylver Vertical Launching System


  1. "Mark 41 Vertical Launching System". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Friedman, Norman (2006). The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems (5th ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 600. 
  3. Mk 57

External links[]

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