Before the advent of VLS, missiles were launched from some type of arm or box launcher. One such launcher was the Mk16 ASROC/Harpoon box launcher. Let’s take a closer look at the launcher.
The Mk16 was an 8-cell box launcher that could rotate and elevate to provide complete hemispherical coverage (minus superstructure cut outs, of course). The launcher was sized for ASROC (RUR-5) and Harpoon missiles. Early systems had no reloads while latter versions mounted on Spruance, Knox, California, and other classes had up to 16 automated reloads.(1)
We’ve previously discussed the relative merits of single arm launchers and VLS systems (see, “VLS Versus Arm Launchers”) and the Mk16 ASROC launcher benefits fall into the single arm category. Trainable launchers offer some advantages over vertical launchers, as we’ve noted.
In addition, one of the major benefits of a box launcher is that it has no significant deck penetration into the hull as opposed to VLS and arm launcher systems which consume large volumes of internal hull space. Of course, the reloadable versions of the box launcher require internal volume for storage of the reloads.
Another benefit of the box launcher was the ability to mix loads of ASROC and Harpoon. The reloadable version of the box launcher offered a maximum of 24 Harpoon missiles which far outguns any Navy ship today. Even a reasonable mix would offer, say, 8 ASROC and 16 Harpoon.
It is worth noting that today’s VLS still does not support Harpoon anti-ship missiles although the Navy is looking at adapting the LRASM anti-ship missile to vertical launch. Given anticipated budget constraints, that may or may not come to fruition and Navy interest appears to have greatly abated.
Before one scoffs at the outdated technology of a box launcher, it should be noted that the Navy, today, employs box launchers for Sea Sparrow missiles (Mk29 launcher) on carriers and RAM launchers, which are just a smaller version of a box launcher, on a variety of ships. Similarly, the Army uses box launchers extensively.
|Mk29 Launcher and RAM Launcher in Background|
Just as we’ve previously noted that the arm launchers have certain advantages over VLS systems, box launchers share some of the same advantages such as being able to train directly at the threat and launching horizontally which eliminates the vertical tip-over and gets missiles on the threat faster. With that in mind, it is worth considering a wider application of box launchers, possibly with the earlier combination of Harpoon and ASROC missiles.
|Launcher with Reload Hatches in the Superstructure to the Left|
|Launcher Behind 5" Gun|