Mark 41 Vertical Launching System

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Mk 41 Vertical Launching System
Te Kaha's Anti-Air Missile Armament.jpg
A single 8-cell Mk 41 VLS module fitted to New Zealand frigate HMNZS Te Kaha
TypeMissile Launching System
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1986 – present
Used byUnited States Navy
and a number of others
WarsCold War
Tanker War
Gulf War
Kosovo War
War on Terror
Production history
ManufacturerMartin Marietta
Lockheed Martin
VariantsMk 57

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]


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 the height of the Mk 41 was increased to accommodate the larger Tomahawk missile.[2] The prototype for the launcher was tested and evaluated on board USS Norton Sound. The first operational launcher was installed aboard USS Bunker Hill.[2]


Mark 41 (Mk 41)[edit]

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, RGM-109 Tomahawk, RUM-139 VL-ASROC anti-submarine missile, RIM-7 Sea Sparrow anti-air missile, RIM-162 ESSM and Joint Strike Missile[3].[2] The missiles are pre-loaded into "canisters", which are then loaded into the individual "cells" of the launcher. The ESSM is loaded in a quad-pack with 4 missiles in one Mk 25 canister, older types of 8 cell modules are not able to use ESSM.[2][4] Launcher cells are fitted to ships in 8 cell modules (2 rows of 4) that share a common uptake hatch (exhaust system) sited between the two rows.[2] The 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 height (determining missile length) of the launcher comes in three sizes: 209 inches (5.3 m) for the self-defense version, 266 in (6.8 m) for the tactical version, and 303 inches (7.7 m) for the strike version. The empty weight for an 8-cell module is 26,800 pounds (12.2 t) for the self-defense version, 29,800 pounds (13.5 t) for the tactical version, and 32,000 pounds (15 t) for the strike version.[2] Ticonderoga cruisers and Arleigh Burke destroyers up to DDG-78 have a Strikedown module fore and aft, which consists of five cells and a collapsible crane for assisting with replenishment at sea. As replenishment of large missiles at sea was later seen as impractical and dangerous, Strikedown modules fell out of use on newer ships.[2]

Mark 57 (Mk 57)[edit]

Mk 57 VLS

The Mk 57 VLS is an evolution of Mk 41 VLS. Unlike the Mk 41, the Mk 57 is designed to be installed on the ship periphery instead of in centralized magazines. Developed by Raytheon, it provides backwards compatibility with existing missiles while allowing new missiles with significantly increased propulsion and payloads. While allowing for slightly larger missiles than the Mk 41, the primary improvement of Mk 57 is its exhaust 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.[5] The unique symmetric geometry of the U-shaped gas management system facilitates the egress of gases, while minimizing flow into adjacent cells and reversed flow into the active cell. Another advantage is the elimination of the water deluge system, which is used to cool the missile canister in the event that the missile restraint bolts do not release after rocket motor ignition. Elimination of the water deluge system significantly reduces maintenance and personnel requirements, and protects against accidental missile wet-down.

Vertical Missile Launcher Mk 57 GMVLS specifications [6]
Missiles 4 cells
Width 7.25 ft (2.21 m)
Length 14.2 ft (4.3 m)
Height 26 ft (7.9 m)
Weight 33,600 lb (15,200 kg)
Maximum canister width 28 in (0.71 m)
Maximum canister length 283 in (7.2 m)
Maximum canistered weight 9,020 lb (4,090 kg)


Mark 41 Mod 0 Vertical Launching System on USS Chosin


A Tomahawk missile being launched from the Mark 41 Vertical Launching System aboard the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Farragut
 South Korea
 United Kingdom
 United States
  • Spruance-class destroyer - (61 cells, installed on 24 of 31 vessels) (Retired)
  • Arleigh Burke-class destroyer - (90 or 96 cells)
  • Ticonderoga-class cruiser - (122 cells)
  • Zumwalt-class destroyer - (80 Mk 57 cells)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mark 41 Vertical Launching System". Retrieved 21 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Friedman, Norman (2006). The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems (5th ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 600.
  3. ^ "Exclusive: New Details on the Kongsberg Vertical Launch Joint Strike Missile (VL JSM)". Navy Reckognition. Navy Reckognition. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f NAVEDTRA 14324, Gunner's Mate, Chapter 7.
  5. ^ Mk 57
  6. ^ "MK 57 Vertical Launching System Zumwalt Class Destroyer Program" (PDF).
  7. ^ a b U.S. Navy Guided Missile Launcher Systems Accessed May 15, 2014.
  8. ^ Everington, Keoni. "Mysterious radar ship spotted off coast of S. Taiwan". Taiwan News. Retrieved 15 April 2020.

External links[edit]