Monday, July 18, 2016

Mk57 VLS

The Navy’s vertical launch system (VLS) has long been the backbone of the Navy’s offensive and defensive missile systems.

The basic VLS module is currently available in two lengths: Strike and Tactical. The smaller Self-Defense module is no longer available since it can’t accommodate the ESSM Block 2.  The Strike module is 25 ft (7.6 m) tall and can house all variants of the Standard missile, Tomahawk, and ESSM.  The Tactical module is 22 ft (6.7 m) tall and can house ESSM and non-BMD Standard missiles.

The Mk57 VLS is 26 ft tall and can accommodate an 18 in longer missile and about 3 in greater diameter. 

Here’s a quick comparison.


Mk41 Strike Mk57
Height, ft 25 26
Weight, lb 32,000 33,600
Max Canister Length, ft 21.4 23.6


We can see then, that the Mk57 is slightly bigger than the Mk41-Strike but not by much.

I really don’t understand the benefit of the Mk57.  Consider,

  • There is no missile in the naval inventory or in development, that I’m aware of, that can’t fit in the Mk41 but could fit in the Mk57

  • The Mk57 is non-standard and creates a new parts, maintenance, and training requirement.

  • The Mk57 takes up more deck space and ship’s internal volume – not by a lot but it adds up when we look at a hundred modules or so.  In other words we can’t fit as many Mk57 cells as we can Mk41.

I could understand if the Mk57 were significantly bigger and could house, say, short/intermediate range ballistic missiles but, as I said, there is no such naval missile in inventory or development.

One of the rationales put forth to explain the benefit of the Mk57 is the distributed nature of the cells around the periphery of the ship.  This is claimed to offer survivability benefits.  However, to the best of my knowledge, the Navy has not claimed this benefit and logical analysis does not support the claim.  While a hit on a Mk57 equipped ship would not hit a centralized cluster of cells, as could happen with the Mk41, a missile would have a much higher probability of hitting some cells, as opposed to the less likely chance of hitting a Mk41 cluster.  The Mk57 is claimed to disperse the explosive impact of an exploding cell outward, away from the ship.  Again, this is not a claim the Navy has made, to the best of my knowledge, and seems unlikely to be significantly true.  An incoming missile hit would penetrate the Mk57 peripheral cell and continue inward, creating an opening into the ship’s hull for the exploding contents of the cell (its missile and subsequent blast wave) to follow.  Yes, some amount of the energy would be directed outward, as with any explosion, but large amounts would be directed inward.  The degree of armor protection, if any, between the cell and interior hull is unknown.  I have seen no Navy claim that the cells are individually armored.

The Mk41 cell clusters are, supposedly, encased in an armored “box” within the hull to contain explosive effects.  Again, the degree of armoring and its effectiveness is unknown.

Thus, the claims of enhanced survivability seem like an after-the-fact justification conjured by observers rather than an actual characteristic claimed by the Navy.  Logic suggests that a peripheral VLS system would offer little, if any, survivability benefit.  Further, if every peripheral cell is armored, the total weight of armor would, likely, be much greater than the armor surrounding the Mk41 box.  A ship would pay a penalty for such a system.  Of course, if the armoring were sufficient to greatly mitigate damage, the penalty might well be worth it.

The peripheral nature of the Mk57 is unique to the Zumwalt class due to the tumblehome shape of the hull.  Conventional hulls cannot accommodate peripheral cells.  They would have to be located some distance inboard due to the length of the cells relative to the outward cant of the hull.  So, the peripheral feature is not a general characteristic of the Mk57.

Finally, if the Mk57 offers significant benefits, whatever those may be, why aren’t they being incorporated into the latest Burkes?

I’m at a loss to understand why this VLS module has been put into service.

51 comments:

  1. Just like the AGS and the Zumwalt class overall, the Mk57 VLS can only be viewed as wasted dead-end development. Mk57 development money would have been better spent on improving Mk41 (reducing weight and cost, restoring reload-at-sea capability) for all ship classes to benefit from.

    Oh well. One more case study in Navy neophilia.

    While we’re on the topic of VLS, I don’t understand why the Navy hasn’t adopted the following requirements:

    - All Navy ships must have VLS.
    - All Navy missiles must be VLS-compatible.

    CVNs, amphibs, and oilers presumably have space and weight capacity to carry VLS cells, and doing so would add very useful capabilities to the battle group. Why are we still using single-purpose box launchers with limited capacities?

    It’s absurd that LCS in particular (whose core concept was about modularity and flexibility) did not have VLS (the ultimate modular and flexible weapons system) from the start (nor was it added in the frigate “up-gunning”). If it did, we would not be debating about the LCS lacking long-range teeth.

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    1. According to an old Tom Clancy book about the USMC from the 90's the San Antonio class was suppose to have some VLS cells from ESSM missiles. Also was suppose to the cooperative engagement system to be able to feed targeting information into aegis system.

      I know the VLS got deleted because of the cost overruns with that class. Probably also the CES too.

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    2. Uuughh... From now on whenever they ballpark the cost of a new weapons system, congress should just multiply the cost by 3. (I'm being sarcastic). At least it would cut down on 'cost overruns'.

      I'm beginning to think there is no future hope for the Navy. We'll spend more and more money on less and less capable combatants.

      Heck, I was looking at the new Ohio replacements they have planned, and on paper the subs are just as big as the Ohio's. But they have 8 less tridents.

      Any one want to guess how much they'll end up over budget?

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    3. I agree with the other Anon about the LCS lacking firepower, and that the design was not planned. I disagree that the Navy should arm non combatant ships with VLS, as that takes away from their primary missions of replenishment/supply or carrying Marines around. Jim's comment on multiplying all Navy costs by three reminds me of the engineering safety factor; calculate what you need, then multiply that by five ( or what your actual safety factor is). It is disappointing that these conditions exist and are propagated by the military leadership.

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    4. "... other Anon ..."

      Are you guys brothers? :)

      The Navy's distributed lethality idea is nonsense, as you allude to.

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    5. Anon 1 here. To Anon 2 and CNO:

      For the sake of discussion, let’s set aside arming logistics ships, which carries its own set of issues, but seems worth exploring to me.

      Set aside Distributed Lethality. I believe the concept has merit, and the technical issues around datalink reliability in a jamming environment are solvable long-term. However, I think we can all agree that it is too early for the Navy to be putting all its eggs in that basket.

      Just looking at CVNs and amphibs: instead of the antiquated 8-round Sea Sparrow box launchers, why not find room for 2 16-cell Mk41 VLS?

      We'd get:
      - Much greater magazine capacity with quad-pack ESSM and (via ExLS) RAM - useful in a mass AShM attack
      - Flexibility to carry other missile types - e.g., more Tomahawks in the battle group could be useful

      CVN-78 has big rear sponsons whose purpose is still unclear. I’ve seen speculation that VLS will ultimately be fitted there. If so, I don’t know why that wasn’t part of the initial build.

      Maybe Mk41 is too boring for the Navy, so they're developing an exotic new one-off electromagnetic cold-launch VLS just for the Ford class ... :)

      BTL

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    6. BTL, the rear sponsons on CVN-78 are almost certainly for anticipated laser or rail gun weapons.

      Where would you put VLS on a carrier? They can't go on the sponsons because there is insufficient depth. That only leaves taking some portion of the flight deck and underlying hangar or ship's compartments. That would be taking away from the ship's main "battery" to add a very few VLS cells.

      My objection to distributed lethality is the absolute absurdity of thinking we're going to expose precious tankers, cargo ships, or whatever to enemy attack just so we can launch a few extra missiles. The support and logistics ships are worth their weight in gold. They are what enable the fleet to operate. To risk them is insane.

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    7. I’m surprised lasers or rail guns would require such big rear sponsons on CVN-78. Perhaps the rail gun magazine needs some below-deck volume, but those sponsons are huge.

      As to where to fit VLS on a CVN: just eyeballing things, if you stood CVN-78's ESSM box launcher vertically, it looks like it would fit within the big new aft port sponson, meaning you could fit an ESSM-length VLS there.

      And if you put a housing on the forward starboard sponson that rose up to be flush with the flight deck, looks like you could fit an ESSM-length VLS there too.

      By doing so, you’d get much greater magazine capacity to withstand a saturation AShM attack.

      Perhaps either location might interfere with flight operations. And since, as CNO wrote, the Self-Defense length Mk41 VLS is no longer available, and can't accomodate ESSM Block 2 anyway, perhaps that’s a blocker as well.

      BTL

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  2. This question is somewhat directed at all the VLS variants, and specifically the Mk57. How do you reload whole underway? In realistic combat environments, real war, not lobbing missiles at goat-herders?

    Every picture I've found of VLS cells being reloaded look like they are in port. Calm water to say the least.

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    1. At sea reloads are not possible. Earlier Mk41s had a reload crane as part of the assembly but that's been abandoned.

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    2. So ocean-going Roman candles. Fantastic.

      All an enemy would need to do is throw out a bunch of decoys to trick our ships into wasting missiles...

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    3. How often were missile reloaded at sea before VLS. An officer from the USS Oklahoma City describes hauling the Talos as not being the easiest thing. Very good website too! http://www.okieboat.com/Talos%20miscellaneous.html

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    4. Did they abandon the crane because it didn't work, or because it was hard?

      The no -at sea reloads to me is a huge issue. A cruiser or destroyer could empty its magazine in one heavy raid given the weapons we are facing. And if everything works flawlessly you just created a mission kill on the ship until it can sail home, get reloaded, and get back into action.

      Given that these ships don't have much in the way of offensive weaponry, once their standards are gone they are only good for land attack with tomahawks. So you have a couple billion dollar one trick pony.

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    5. It proved to be very difficult and very time consuming and was deemed just not worth the effort.

      It really is not that big a deal. If you look at the history of naval battles, ships meet, fight, and return to base to rearm, refuel, repair. They don't stay at sea fighting battle after battle. Thus, a hundred or so VLS cells is sufficient for a single battle.

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    6. @Jim, the original deployable crane system apparently had both significant reliability issues and even when it did work, it apparently worked rather poorly.

      The whole thing is rather complicated. Either you need surplus magazines on ship (in which case why didn't you just move things around and add more VLS) or you need to transfer from a logistics ship. Either way, you then need to get it to the VLS, make it vertical and align it and lower it in. All fairly difficult work that becomes much harder in bad sea states. It is pretty easy at dock, as you tend to have no sea state to worry about, massive overhead cranes to lift and position, etc.

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    7. Reloading at sea was never going to happen IMO. But the real head-scratcher is how convoluted reloading VLS ashore is. I never understood why NWS Yorktown didn't had a gantry crane that could lift the entire Mk41 block (or a least six cells) out of the hull and replace it. Based on the positioning of the Mk 57, I'd say that an already time consuming process would be multiplied by a factor of 2 with the Zumwalt.

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    8. Now that's a great point that I hadn't considered. Will reload of a Zumwalt take significantly longer? Great question that I have no answer for.

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    9. Reloading at sea was a non-issue, and this may be related with the widespread rumour that the USN is hard-pressed to fill all its VLS with missiles at all (including missiles that are obsolete or past shelf life).

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    10. I don't consider reloading at sea to be that big an issue. Ships typically don't remain at sea for battle after battle where reloading is necessary. Typically, a task force will put to sea, engage in a single battle, and return to port to rearm, refuel, and reprovision.

      Delete
    11. There are actually three issues with this;

      1) submarine false contacts
      NATO came to the conclusion back in the 80's that its frigates don't carry enough lightweight torpedoes for a single transatlantic convoy patrol because of the high false alarm rate. Too many false contacts were engaged in exercises with one or multiple LWTs.
      The false contact problem is probably not fully defeated yet, and may extend to VL ASROC expenditures.

      2) many VLS cells are filled with SAMs. It's standard procedure to launch each 2 SAMs at incoming threats (1 maybe at very distant threats more for chasing away than killing). AIM-120 had ~50% pk in real air combat against mostly easy targets, active radar seeker SAMs may have a pk in the region of 0.2...0.5 against AShMs and fulkly operational well-employed modern strike fighters. Supersonic anti-radar missiles with backup sensors (such as our own AGM-88E)are even more challenging targets.
      Many SAMs may be launched at the edge of the engagement envelope, with target running away in time and the missile thus being wasted.
      Decoys may also provoke waste of SAMs (USAF already did this over North Vietnam).

      So with 2 SAMs expended per air target engaged but a pk maybe as low as 0.2 you may run empty quickly even with quad pack ESSMs, not the least because such missiles cost well above a million per copy and thus aren't purchased as much as the crews would prefer.
      Now imagine your battle fought, withdraw to port scenario; a more or less victorious CVBG would withdraw with few if any SAMs in VLS left, and with reduced air wing. It's not going to leave the range of air threats or submarines' missiles (~SM.39, SubHarpoon, 3M54K) for days.

      3) Distance to next harbour. Guam's harbour is only useful as an alternative to scuttling in wartime. Japan and South Korea may remain neutral in a conflict around Taiwan. The next friendly port for the USN may be in Australia or Hawaii. To withdraw there during a conflict would establish a de facto rotation with but a fraction of the fleet in a relevant position or else Taiwan (for example) would be exposed for weeks.

      I suppose at the very least hundreds of ESSMs and hundreds LWTs should be available for replenishment at sea (or at least in some atoll where the water is calm). The replenishment ships should be able to receive new munitions themselves by strategic airlift.

      Alternatively, simply stick to defence; then you don't need to bother about what happens far from home.

      ---------
      There are historical examples where lack of munitions replenishment became important; Battle of the Falklands Islands and Battle of Rio de la Plata. Also, lack of at-sea replenishment with torpedoes after 1st day of Battle at Jutland and lack of munitions (and even more so sufficient fuel) replenishment for the Combined Fleet after the Pearl Harbor attacks.

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    12. "CVBG would withdraw with few if any SAMs in VLS left"

      You haven't clearly thought this through. You seem to be assuming that the enemy has an infinite supply of assets to attack with. If a carrier battle group fights a battle large enough to deplete its AAW armament, both ship and aircraft based, and has survived, then the enemy's attack assets will have been hugely depleted as well.

      Consider the simple math. A carrier group in war will consist of three carriers (Cold War and WWII carrier doctrine dictate this) and around 20 Burke/Tico escorts. Twenty Burke/Ticos have around 2000 VLS cells. Throw in a portion that are quad packed with ESSM, say even a low number like 10%, that's 800 ESSM. If 70% of the cells are filled with Standard missiles (the remainder being Tomahawks), that's 1400 Standards. Of course, depending on the mission, that percentage might be higher.

      It's hard to imagine that quantity of missiles being used in a single battle and if they are, the enemy won't have much left to continue attacks with.

      Add to that the air to air weapons of three air wings and the numbers of anti-air weapons begins to become staggering.

      You might want to reconsider your comment in light of these numbers.

      Would reloading at sea be nice? Sure. Is it really a significant problem? No.

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    13. AFAIK the Tomahawk share is much higher and you forgot both VL ASROC & SM-3 (which has no SAM function).
      I also noted that you look at numbers BEFORE applying 2 missiles per target doctrine or multiplying by pk even though I explicitly mentioned both factors.

      Some missiles (maybe 50%) will be lost as the ships get hit before consuming them.
      At 2,000 SM missiles and (for example) pk of 0.2 and 2 missiles per target that would be 360 kills. 50% lost before consumed -> 180 kills. That's decoys, missile and aircraft targets.
      Not so impressive for a CVBG of 3 carriers.
      The fighters would probably not amount to more than 300 missiles in the air against a big saturation attack (this figure is rather too high), again with an assumed pk of 0.2 and 50% lost before used but only one missile per target that would be 30 kills.
      Add various CIWS kill maybe 40 missiles (and no friendly aircraft for a change).

      Thus a low but not unrealistic pk + the "2 missiles per target" doctrine + difficult targets -> maybe only 250 kills. Decoys, missiles and aircraft. That's less than the CVBG's own air wing.

      The picture doesn't look nice. The fleet depends on a decent pk and soft kill efficiency, or else it's in huge trouble. The less missiles it has (including replenishment) the worse the situation is.

      500 Chinese missiles and good decoys = at most 1/2 the expense of a Flight IIa Arleigh Burke & almost no annual operating expenses.

      The situation may be bearable from an OR point of view with a pk of 0.3 or higher and at least near-flawless coordination and readiness only.
      Peacetime test pk are often in the range of 0.8...0.9, but we know from experience that wartime pk was much worse with all air target missile types than the previous peacetime assumptions.

      Last but not least; replenishment at sea includes the aforementioned replenishment in an atoll. That should be a self-evident capability of the USN. To date it may even lack the munitions, with machines for replenishment being the lesser concern.

      "Of course, depending on the mission, that percentage might be higher."

      You assume that the USN has substantial quantities of modern missiles in stock on land. It seems their strategic missile reserve is rather what the ships undergoing major repair & maintenance have loaded.

      BTW, the USN may have purchased substantially less than 2,000 ESSMs so far, so 800 of those in a fleet with about 1/4 of the DDGs/CGs is extremely optimistic. ~500 is more realistic.
      http://www.fi-aeroweb.com/Defense/RIM-162-ESSM.html


      P.S.: I assumed that 2 missiles fired at one target cannot kill more than one target. SM-2 and later missiles may rarely be redirected, so in theory 2 missiles fired at one target could yield 2 kills. It doesn't really change the overall picture much at an assumed pk of 0.2.

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    14. "500 Chinese missiles and good decoys"

      !!!!!!!!!!!! Why not make it an even 1000 or 10,000? It would make your case even stronger!! Do you really believe the Chinese are capable of launching a coordinated attack of 500 missiles and decoys? We couldn't do that!

      Half of all SAM missiles lost before launching!!!! Again, why not say 80% lost? Or 99%?

      You're just cobbling together an utterly ridiculous scenario to try to make your point - which I suspect is just argument for the sake of argument. Just to prove that you're arguing for the sake of arguing, do you recall what the original point was? It was reloading at sea. In your scenario, the group would be utterly wiped out. Nothing can defend against 500 simultaneous missiles. At that point, reloading doesn't really matter does it, so what are you arguing about?

      You've gone down an absurd path.

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    15. The point was that a fleet retiring from battle isn't necessarily still armed enough to make it home before the next battle.
      Nor is - as I mentioned - retiring to the next port an efficient option. It may actually fore a rotation scheme on the fleet that approx. halves the strength on station and thus the fleet's efficiency.

      And sadly, a pk of 0.2 is not utterly ridiculous. The SA-2 had a pk of below 0.06 over North Vietnam, for example. Same for famous SA-6 during Yom Kippur war, where it was actually considered successful. pk of SAMs in Falklands War was below 0.2 as well. HAWK missiles in Yom Kippur War - below pk of 0.2.

      "ridiculous" is a look at missiles quantities without taking the in actual warfare horrible pk into account.
      Running out of SAMs was a major problem for several countries from the 60'sonward, and I suppose it could be so for a battlefleet as well. Air defence power can usually be restored by supplying new SAMs.

      I suppose this is one of the points where the USN (and likely also RN, Deutsche Marine, PLAN etc.) "is hollow".
      To buy and operate ships is so much sexier than having large stocks of missiles in depots that will likely be written off after 30 years shelf life.

      BTW, I wrote nowhere about a single attack with 500 missiles and decoys. The range of such missiles is such that most launch aircraft could be expected to return for another wave. Two sorties (waves) per day looks feasible (except maybe for H-6). A CVBG fleet that runs to home port after a single wave of air attacks would be no good, so it's reasonable it would endure multiple waves unless it could attrit the platforms quickly.
      I don't have that much confidence in SM-6 and AIM-120 against running, dodging and ECM-using targets that are capable of ~9g manoeuvres.

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    16. "I wrote nowhere about a single attack with 500 missiles and decoys"

      Here's your quote:

      "500 Chinese missiles and good decoys"

      If you meant that to be split among multiple attack waves, you failed to state that.

      This is an utterly nonsensical scenario you've concocted. I'm going to leave this discussion now. Feel free to have a last word.

      Delete
  3. Raytheon claims that the big difference between the MK41 and MK57 is:

    "Innovative Gas Management System
    The robust MK 57 VLS gas management system can accommodate new missile designs having up to 45 percent greater rocket motor mass flow rate than current-generation rocket motors."

    If true, this would allow for much more powerful booster designs.

    GAB

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    1. Even better would be a cold launch ejection which would eliminate the need for exhaust vents.

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    2. SOL,

      Depends on what you are trying to accomplish, and under what constraints.

      There is no way of judging this without very detailed engineer specifications.

      GAB

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    3. Sure,
      Missiles can be half a ton, not so easy to cold launch such big masses.

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    4. cold launch can work for lightweight missiles but has scaling issues for larger missiles. There is a big difference in trying to cold launch something like a CAMM/ESSM sized missiles and Tomahawk/SM-3/SM-6.

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    5. My understanding is that the Soviet Union/Russia uses cold launches for many missile systems including the giant SS-N-19 Shipwreck missile on the Kirov class.

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    6. CNO, you sure about that? Only images I've seen of a P-700 launch are from the Admiral Kuznetsov which definitely aren't cold launched.

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    7. No, I'm not sure but I have read that. Supposedly, that's why the launch tubes are slanted so that if the missile fails to ignite it will be thrown clear of the ship.

      I've also read that the Russian cold launch is only cold on a relative basis. It doesn't use a puff of air. It uses hot gas, just far less intense than the booster stage.

      I'll look for a specific reference.

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    8. RN new Sea Ceptor is totally cold launch with no rocket efflux and ignition is at approx. 30 meters above the ship after squib thrusters orientate the missile.

      I have now seen the design on 2 MBDA missiles but only this 1 is coming into service in land and sea variants.

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    9. Cold launch means relatively cold compared to rocket motor exhaust
      The main advantage is safety, so if your missiles are less reliable on launch you want to be able to get rid them.
      Smaller missiles are easier to cold launch and larger missiles is essential with the extreme example of both ICBM and SLBM

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  4. Another point is the MK57 allegedly can support much heavier missile canister weights (9,020 lbs versus ~6,000lbs for the MK41).

    Without a missile to take advantage of the improved weight and thrust, the MK57 represents unused capacity.

    I do not blame the MK57, I blame the USN for not pushing forward better Anti-ship, BMD, and land attack missile designs.

    GAB

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    1. MK57 was designed to allow evolution to larger missiles over time. In the original goals, MK57 would of been on a 32 ship class and would be the standard going forward. It provides backwards compatibility with existing missiles while allowing new missiles with significantly increased propulsion and payloads. Hence the significantly increases exhaust mass flows and weights.

      The peripheral capability works equally well for tumblehome or traditional hull shapes since the outside edges are generally dead space anyways.

      If things had gone according to plan, we'd have 32 DDGs and ~20-30 CGs with MK57 and payloads would of been built to exploit the capability. ~2 ft longer and 3" increased diameter is a decent amount of additional propulsion capability. MK57 could of supported a Gen2 Tomahawk missile with 2x payload and the same or greater range or 1x payload with ~50-100% greater range. Similar impacts for SM with booster stages that had significantly longer ranges and higher speeds.

      It was a reasonable plan overall. The cancellation of CG(X) and pruning of DDG1000 to 3 ships basically killed any future weapons development for MK57. This led to the Flt III burkes which are a shadow of the capabilities originally envisioned for CG(X) which were to have significantly larger radars, significantly larger hulls, significantly larger payloads, potentially nuclear power, etc.

      Zumwalt used MK57 because that's what it was designed to use and it is backwards compatible with MK41.

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  5. CNO,

    This may be cynical, I think you already answered your own question of why :

    "The Mk57 is non-standard and creates a new parts, maintenance, and training requirement."

    It's a make work job.

    Unless.....there are new weapons in the pipeline that are still secret.

    Speaking of new VLS, how will they launch the Hellfire missiles from the LCS? LM had a mockup of the "frigate" version of the LCS with a 60 Hellfire missile launcher, but there's no real news on this front.

    http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/naval-exhibitions/sna-2016-show-daily-news/3473-sna-2016-lockheed-martins-new-freedom-variant-lcs-frigate-model-in-details.html

    A

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    1. My understanding is that the Hellfire will use a custom, dedicated box launcher that is vertically mounted - a mini-VLS, essentially. As you note, exact details are hard to come by.

      Technical challenges include getting the vertically launched missile to tip over and acquire the target. Also, it is expected that the Hellfire's range will be somewhat reduced since some of the initial thrust and travel is vertical rather than directly toward the target. The degree of impact on range remains to be seen.

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  6. Future-proofing. The larger VLS cell will provide some room for future needs and development. Of course, if the Mk 57 is only installed on three ships then it is unlikely that the excess capacity will ever get used.

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  7. Should the Navy field a larger SAM or ABM, the Mk 57 VLS could be installed at Aegis Ashore bases to supplement the Mk 41.

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    1. You're correct, in theory, but the odds that we'll field a missile slightly larger than current ones but still small enough to fit in the Mk57 are vanishingly small.

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  8. May be the Navy were planning to use the Zumwalt/CG(X) for BMD with the SM3 Blk IIB. The higher speed/longer range BMD missile had a larger diameter booster and a 27" high performance liquid upper stage. So Navy specified the larger Mk57 VLS though always had the option of using a modified Mk41 VLS.

    The increased capability of SM3 Blk IIB was cancelled by Obama under pressure from Putin March 2013 so as to not destabilise the nuclear balance.

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    1. SM3 Blk IIB was cancelled after Raytheon engineers admitted there is no way to double the range of the SM-3 without making it much bigger. But that didn't stop the Aegis ashore BS.

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  9. Amphibs are troopships for moving stuff to shore. No need to crowd them with missiles that might explode in the hull and kill a thousand Marines.

    The bigger VLS allows slightly larger SM-3s with more range for the profitable missile defense game. But it still lacks the range to shoot down ICBMs and even IRBMs. The entire land-based Aegis system in Romania and now Poland is a fraud. Those missiles can't even reach half the altitude required as target missiles arc 300 miles overhead.

    As we retire VLS ships, lets do a test. Pack a cell with several missiles and shoot a missile at it. I suspect the ship would explode apart as all the missiles explode.

    I like that frigate design of Taiwan were the box launchers sit at 45 degrees each way stacked atop the superstructure. Those can explode without ripping the ship apart, can be released and dumped if they catch fire, and be reloaded while underway.

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  10. Interesting point on distributed VLS and the hit percentages you mention in your piece.

    Let’s run the figures (in concept anyway)

    From the top the odds are virtually the same in terms of vulnerable surface are area.

    However missiles tend to aim for the middle of a radar return, so that makes the central VLS more likely to be hit. And hence the distributed safer.

    Assuming your aiming for the VLS. ( as far as I know only the RN Sea Venom missile has this capability but you know ). If a missile misses the middle VLS, it still hits the ship ( the fire may spread ). If a missile misses the distributed VLS these is a 40% chance or more it goes in the water. i.e distributed still safer.

    Assuming a hit on VLS the chances of a catastrophic chain reaction in a central VLS is higher.

    Distributed with less cells per installation is obviously less BOOM-BOOM-BOOM.

    In terms of this, when a VLS goes up it will explode outward in a rough sphere. Central VLS guarantee the best parts of the ship are included in this sphere. And it’s a “contained explosion” which is the very worst thing to do with an explosion.

    Distributed kind of guarantees partial venting to the outside world, should the very worst happen. Again in the region of 40%.

    Now I'm not saying this is save the ship brilliant, but its definatly a statistical improvement.

    Beno

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  11. The Zumwalt was supposed to be for surface combatants what the F-35 was to be for the aviation side...the next generation. So bigger cells for future large missilesa nd Bigger guns
    If they had not cost 3 billion each (does that include ammo?) then we might have bought more and developed new missiles for the cells. That was why it was designed that way, for the future.
    But why keep it now?
    Because in the eyes of bureaucrats and politicians of both parties the NAVY IS JUST ANOTHER JOBS PROGRAM. Jobs for the contractors building and servicing ships, employment for the sailors--who aren't expected to actually see combat. So ship programs can can cost billions even if they are as crappy as the LCS because it's about the jobs in dozens of congressional districts that go away regardless of how expensive or even how combat worthy the ships are.
    So instead of standard VLS cells and 5 inch guns we have these custom-never-used-again models because somebody is going to gripe about the jobs lost when the 155mm factory or the new VLS or the yard making the Zumwalts shuts down.
    Just like we are going full bore with the 57mm guns that testing shows are worthless (albeit mostly because we went cheap on targeting systems). and refusing to test new systems properly=if the system sucks we might drop it and there's seat cushions for the deck of the LCS made in some small congressional district in east nowhere USA that could cost jobs.

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  12. Isnt the main reason for two types of VLS that of "arms control', as the larger tubes can accommodate Tomahawk, which may be restricted by treaty or some such ?
    As a side issue the new Virginia class USS John Warner has a couple extra large vertical missile tubes
    http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/uss-john-warner-shows-off-jumbo-missile-tube-during-com-1722122511

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    1. The Warner's tube is the Virginia Payload Tube. It is not a single launch tube but, instead, contains six normal tubes arranged in a circle within the larger container. It might be possible to remove those individual tubes and insert one giant one but that would make little sense. A sub with two missiles is not particularly useful. This is just a repackaging of the 12 Tomahawk VLS that the Virginia class already had.

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    2. The main point of the all up round system is that it removes a lot of restrictions from only being able to support Tomahawk sized missiles. It would be possible to design a significantly larger missile and triple or quad pack them using the same system.

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  13. ddg51 too small to fit mk57. DDG1000 can fit 220+ mk41 in same area.

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