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The only way is up!

Vertical launching was first employed for long-range ballistic missiles, but since the late 1970s it has also been applied to other guided weapon categories, mainly because it provides effective rapid-reaction hemispherical coverage with the minimum number of ready-to-fire rounds. The following discussion is primarily concerned with vertically launched air defence and cruise missiles. It excludes ballistic missiles and those weapon systems developed solely to defend against such missiles.

The appearance in 1980 of the 24,300-tonne nuclear-powered Soviet cruiser Kirov (later Admiral Ushakov) marked the start of a new trend in naval armament, as it had no visible heavy weapons aside from two 100 mm guns. Indeed, it housed an array of vertical launch modules with 20 NPO Mashinostroyenia (then OKB-52) P-500 Granit (Granite) or SS-N-19 Shipwreck anti-ship missiles and twelve Altair S-300F or SA-N-6 Grumble air defence units. Each of the three later ships in the Kirov series was also to have two Antey 9K330 Klinok (Blade) or SA-N-9 Gauntlet eight-round vertical launch air defence units.

If the Soviet Navy had thus stolen a lead in naval weaponry, it was, arguably, only to be expected, in view of its overriding need to offset the US Navy's vast 'blue water' superiority in terms of number of ships and the striking power of its carrier battle groups.

Vertical launching of guided missiles offered the prospect of rapid reaction and a high firing rate against a target in any quarter, and of achieving this with the smallest possible number of on-board rounds. Such launchers reduce the ship's radar signature, save weight, space and eliminate the traditional time delay and mechanism associated with reloading trainable launchers from below-deck magazines, since each missile is (in effect) fired directly from its magazine. Furthermore, vertical launchers may be designed to accommodate a combination of different missile types (e.g., anti-ship, -aircraft and -submarine), giving the parent vessel a multi-role capability. Experience has demonstrated that such launchers can be upgraded to house newer developments.

On the other hand, the concept of firing from below deck involves safety considerations, and (in the case of large missiles) makes it difficult or even impossible to reload launchers at sea. Tall missiles are clearly unsuited to vertical installation in small vessels.

Russian Anti-surface Vessel

Considering firstly Russian vertically launched anti-ship missiles, the NPO Mash P-500 Granit (often referred to as the P-700 or 3M45) mentioned above is a seven-tonne, ten-metre turbojet-powered cruise missile with a range of approximately 550 km. It is believed to carry either a 750 kg conventional warhead or a 500-kt nuclear device. It has inertial mid-course guidance with provisions for mid-course target updating, and active radar guidance for the terminal phase, and the Granit may have a passive radar homing capability. It is used only by the Russian Navy.

In recent presentations NPO Mash representatives have indicated that for subsonic anti-ship missiles (presumably without target updating from aircraft or satellites, which most potential customers would lack) the maximum realistic range is around 230 km, due to the problem of the radar seeker finding a moving target after a long flight. It may be added that, whatever the range, a supersonic dash is desirable for penetrating the ship's defences.

One such development is included in the Novator Klub (Club) or SS-N-27 series, of which the Klub-N was designed to be launched vertically from ships, and the Klub-S from submarine torpedo tubes. The baseline missile is the 3M-54E, which has a diameter of 533 mm, an overall length of 8.22 metres, a launch weight of 2300 kg and a range of 220 km the last 20 km of which is flown supersonically by a third stage delivering what is believed to be a 200 kg warhead. The 3M-54E1 is a shorter (6.2 metres), lighter (1780 kg) variant, designed for use on smaller ships and submarines. It lacks the supersonic penetrator but has a larger (supposedly around 400 kg) warhead. The 3M-14E missile appears to be based on the 3M-54E1, but is intended to engage ground targets, using satellite navigation and terrain following. The 91RTE2 Klub-N is a 1300 kg, 6.5-metre, ship-launched, antisubmarine ballistic missile with a homing sonar head and an underwater rocket motor. It has a flight speed of up to Mach 2.0 and carries a 76 kg warhead over a range of 40 km. The baseline 3M-54E missile is being purchased by the Indian Navy for its three new Talwar (Krivak-III) class frigates, each of which carries eight Klub-Ns, and for its Kilo class submarines.

The most significant development in the anti-ship category is probably the NPO Mash 3M55 Oniks (Onyx) or SS-N26, known in export form as the Yakhont (Gem). The 3M55 is 8.9 metres long and 720 mm in diameter. This ramjet-powered supersonic cruise missile is equipped with a Granit radar seeker, which scans 45 degrees either side of missile axis, and provides a detection range of approximately 50 km. The ship-based missile weighs around 3000 kg, or 3900 kg complete with canister. It is launched vertically, then rotated toward the target by means of a side-firing jet in the forward section, an opposing jet then stops the rotation and the missile separates from its tandem booster. It employs what is described as an advanced ('cold launch') firing method, which does not require flame deflectors. Warhead weight is 250 kg.

In addition to the ship-based Yakhont, a vertically launched submarine version is being developed, as is the Bastion coastal defence system (launched vertically from a silo or a three-round wheeled vehicle) and an air-launched Alfa version for the Su-33 and Tu-95. At an NPO presentation at the 2001 Paris Air Show, it was stated that series production of Yakhont had begun.

The Yakhont has a range of up to 285 km cruising at over 45000 ft, or 120 km in sea-skimming mode, which includes a pop-up to a height of around 650 ft to acquire the target. It is capable of Mach 2.5 at altitude, and low-level penetration speed is in excess of Mach 2.0. In late 2002 it was mentioned that the 3M55 had entered service with the Russian Navy.

The Yakhont's $240 million development cost is believed to have been shared equally between Russia and India, following the formation in 1995 of a joint venture named BrahMos (a contraction of Brahmaputra-Moscow) by NPO Mash and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The first firing of a PJ10 test vehicle took place in Orissa state, India, on 1 June 2001, and the second on 28 April 2002. It has been claimed (without much credibility) that the BrahMos missile is significantly different from the 3M55, having a 2500 kg launch weight, a 670 mm diameter and a 200 kg warhead.

Russian Surface-to-air

The naval Antey 9K330 Klinok short-range air defence system referred to earlier has three or four launchers, each with eight missiles. It can simultaneously engage four targets at up to twelve kilometres. The Klinok is derived from the Russian Army's 9K331 Tor or SA-15 Gauntlet, which is based on a tracked vehicle. It carries 3D target acquisition and tracking radars, and eight Clos-guided Fakel-designed 9M330 vertically launched missiles. These are catapulted from the vehicle and turned toward the target by a nose-mounted reaction control system prior to main motor ignition. In 1991, the Kupol 9K331 Tor-M1 entered service with a range of improvements, including the 9M331 missile with a more effective warhead and a range of twelve kilometres. The 9M331 is 2.9 metres long and has a diameter of 235 mm, a 15 kg warhead and a launch weight of 167 kg. The Tor-M1 can simultaneously engage two targets, including air-to-ground missiles. China's HQ-17 is a copy of the 9K331. The reduced-cost Tor-M1T family replaces the 9A331-1 tracked armoured chassis with a truck, trailer or stationary shelter.

The Altair-designed S-300F, which has the Russian Navy designation V601 Fort and the export name Rif (Reef), might be regarded as the naval equivalent of the Almaz/IFIG-OS S-300P or SA-10 Grumble, as it employs basically the same Fakel-designed 3M41 or 5V55 long-range air defence missile. The upgraded S-300FM (Fort-M, Rif-M) is armed with the high-performance Fakel 48N6 (export 48N6E) missile, which is 7.5 metres long, and has a diameter of 520 mm, a launch weight of 1800 kg and a 143 kg focussed-effect warhead. The system can engage six targets simultaneously at up to 120 km, its cold launch system ejecting up to four rounds in one second. Russian cruisers can accommodate up to twelve eight-cell firing units.

The history of the Almaz S-300P series, initially developed for the Soviet Air Defence Forces, was described in some detail in Armada 4/2002. Deliveries of the trailer-mounted S-300PT towed system began in 1978, followed by the self-propelled S-300PS, likewise based on wheeled vehicles. The principal export version has so far been the S-300PMU1 with Fakel 48N6E missiles. It was unveiled in 1993, and has been the subject of Chinese, Indian and Greek Cypriot orders. Later developments, notably the S-300PMU2 unveiled at Maks '97, are aimed at improving effectiveness against ballistic missiles.

The Soviet Army's equivalent of the S-300P was the Niemi (later Antey) S-300V or SA-12 series, based on tracked vehicles. The S-300V entered service in 1986 with the Novator 9M83 missile, giving a range of 75 km. The same company's 100-km 9M92 missile followed, providing some capability against ballistic missiles. The upgraded S-300VM with 9M82M and 9M83M missiles (the former giving a range of 200 km) is offered for export as the Antey-2500.

American Surface-to-air

The Raytheon Rim-66C Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) comprises the US Navy's primary defence against aircraft and anti-ship cruise missiles. It arms the CG-47 Ticonderoga class cruisers and DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers of the Aegis fleet, all of which employ the Lockheed Martin MK 41 vertical launch system (VLS). In total, the SM-2 is operational on 160 combatants of 13 navies.

The SM-2 Blocks III/IIIA/IIIB are currently deployed, as is the extended range RIM-67B Block IV, which achieved operational capability in 1999. The latter model introduced a thrust-vectoring Mk 72 boost motor and guidance improvements to enhance capability against theatre ballistic missiles and supersonic sea-skimming cruise missiles. The SM-2 employs inertial mid-course guidance with target updates from the shipboard fire control system, and semi-active radar terminal homing (augmented by a side-mounted infrared seeker from the Block IIIB onwards). The SM-2 ER has a diameter of 348 mm, a length of 6.7 metres and a launch weight of approximately 1450 kg.

The projected Block IVA is now to be replaced in the air defence role by the Raytheon Extended-Range Active Missile (Eram), which will combine the airframe, rocket motors and warhead from the now defunct Block IVA with the active radar seeker from the company's much smaller AIM-120C5. The Eram is due to enter service in 2010, providing the ability to intercept cruise missiles below Aegis radar coverage. Maximum range is reportedly around 200 km.

The Lockheed Martin Mk 41 VLS is an eight-cell hot-launch module, developed by the Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems (NE&SS) division. Over 11,000 cells have been delivered or are on order for 173 ships of eleven navies. Installations range from a single module to a 16-module unit with 128 missiles. The module has an ablative-lined plenum base and uptake hatch to vent exhaust gases, and it is housed in an armoured space below deck. If a warhead should overheat or the motor accidentally ignite, a safety deluge system sprays water over it. The Mk 41 VLS can accommodate a wide range of armament: the Raytheon ESSM (Evolved SeaSparrow Missile), the SM-2 series described above, the Raytheon Tomahawk and the Lockheed Martin Vertical Launch Asroc (Anti-Submarine Rocket).

Teamed with United Defense, Lockheed Martin is now developing a Single Cell Launcher (SCL) for ships too small to accommodate the Mk 41. The SCL is based on a Mk 25 Quad-Pack Canister housing four ESSMs in a single cell. The first test firing took place in December 2002.

The Raytheon Rim-162 ESSM is a joint programme by ten Nato members, and represents a kinematic upgrade to the Rim-7P SeaSparrow. It introduces a rocket motor of larger diameter, tail controls and thrust vectoring to suit vertical launch. Fleet introduction is due this year on US Navy DDG-51 class destroyers.

The latest US-led surface-to-air development is the Meads (Medium Extended Air Defence System), a joint effort with Germany and Italy. Prime contractor Meads International is owned 50:50 by Lockheed Martin and Euromeads, in turn owned by Eads/LFK and MBDA-Italy. The Meads will fire the Lockheed Martin Pac-3 missile from twelve-round trucks.

American Surface-to-surface

The Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missile entered service in 1986 and, following strikes against Iraq in 1991, has been used on targets in Afghanistan, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia. The principal form is the BGM-109C land attack version with a 450 kg unitary conventional warhead, launched from submarines or surface vessels, the latter using the Mk 41 VLS or the four-round armoured box launcher (ABL). It has a launch weight of approximately 1360 kg, a length of 6.25 metres, a diameter of 535 mm, and a range of 1300 km. The latest model is the Block IV or Tactical Tomahawk, which introduces anti-jamming GPS navigation, in-flight retargeting and the ability to transmit battle damage imagery. Low-rate contracts cover 25 and 167 rounds, a further 267 have been requested for FY 2004, and a full-rate production decision is scheduled for May 2004. Some 2396 rounds are now planned.

Although not strictly relevant to the present discussion, it may be noted that the Lockheed Martin NE&SS RUM-139 Vertical Launch Asroc (VLA) was introduced in 1993, providing CG-47, DD-51 and DD-963 vessels with the ability to deliver a Mk 46 torpedo against intermediate-range submarines. The VLA weighs 633 kg, is 4.85 metres long and has a diameter of 422 mm.

The most interesting new development in the surface-to-surface category is probably the US Army/Darpa NetFires or Nlos-LS (non line-of-sight launch system) programme for indirect fire support. Also known as "rockets in a box", NetFires envisages 15 vertically launched rounds in a container/launcher unit (CLU) weighing less than 1150 kg loaded. The CLU with integral command and control equipment can be placed on the ground or operated on a truck or Humvee. It will fire two types of missile: a Precision Attack Missile (Pam) being developed by Raytheon, and a Loitering Attack Missile (Lam) from Lockheed Martin. Each has a diameter of 180 mm, a length of around 1.50 metres and a launch weight of approximately 45 kg. The Pam will have an Aerojet controllable-thrust rocket, a large multi-mode warhead and a dual-mode uncooled infrared/semi-active laser seeker to kill tanks at up to 50 km. The Lam will have a ladar seeker and a Microturbo turbojet, combined with fold-out wings to provide an endurance of 45 minutes. On 16 May 2003, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon formed NetFires to pursue missile and launcher development and production. The SDD (system development and demonstration) phase begins in 2004.

Rest of the World

The superpowers have led in the use of vertical missile launching, but others have followed close behind. Israel's IAI Barak system, (the missile itself is built by Rafael), which employs radar Clos guidance and eight-cell launchers, is now in service with three navies. The MBDA VL Seawolf is described as the first operational anti-missile ship defence weapon system, and has proved capable of intercepting 114 mm shells. It has a launch weight of 140 kg, a length of 3.0 metres, and a diameter of 180 mm. This Vshorad system is used by Britain's Royal Navy and the Royal Malaysian Navy. MBDA has now applied its VL experience to the Mica short-range missile, which weighs 112 kg, and has a length of 3.1 metres and a diameter of 160 mm. It is available with an active radar or IIR seeker, and in ship-and truck-based forms.

However, MBDA's principal contribution in this category is as design authority for the Aster series of medium-range missiles (and associated launchers) for the Eurosam Samp/t (Sol-Air Moyenne Portee/Terrestre) and Saam (Surface Air Anti-Missile) systems. The truck-mounted Samp/t has been ordered for operational evaluation by the French and Italian Armies and is based on an eight-round (Aster 30) vertical launch module mounted on a Renault TRM 10,000 or Astra/Iveco chassis. The French version of the Saam with the Aster 15 is being produced for the Charles de Gaulle nuclear carrier, Saudi-Arabia's Sawari class frigates (which have two eight-cell launchers) and Singapore's similar La Fayette class. The Italian version (with AMS Empar radar in place of the Thales Arabel) will first equip the new aircraft carrier Andrea Doria.

The Paams (Principal Anti-Air Missile System) is contracted separately through Europaams, which (like Eurosam) is jointly owned by MBDA and Thales. It is being produced for Britain's Type 45 destroyers as well as for the French and Italian Horizon/Orizzonte class frigates. The Paams can simultaneously engage twelve targets, with 24 missiles in the air. The Saam-AD is a variant of the Paams, likewise using both missile types.

The MBDA Aster 15 and 30 have a common 100 kg, 180 mm diameter 'dart', but different boost motors, giving a maximum range of 30 and 120 km respectively. The Aster 15 is 4.2 metres long and weighs 310 kg, whereas the Aster 30 is 5.2 meters long and weighs 510 kg. An Aster 30 Block 2 with significantly increased range has been proposed as a substitute for the cancelled SM-2 Block IVA.

Although MBDA has design responsibility for the Sylver (Systeme de Lancement Vertical) launcher for the Aster series, engineering development has been performed by France's DCN and Italy's Alenia. The launcher module has eight cells, each 56 cm square. At the base of each cell is a plenum chamber through which the hot gases pass before rising through a vent pipe to exhaust upwards. The basic Sylver is the A43, first tested in 1994, with a 5.4-metre length to accommodate missiles up to 4.3 metres long. It houses the Aster 15, weighs 7500 kg and is used in the Saam system. The 8000 kg Sylver A50 of 1998 is 6.0 metres long, to accommodate either the Aster 15 or 30, and is used in Paams. The latest development is the Sylver A70, designed to house the Aster series, Exocet Block 3 or Scalp Naval cruise missile.

A much lighter VL surface-to-surface missile system is the Eads/LFK Polyphem-S, which has been selected as the light anti-ship missile for Germany's K-130 frigates. The turbojet-powered and optical fibre-guided Polyphem is 3.0 metres long, weighs 145 kg at launch and has a range of 60 km. Other VL developments in Germany include the lightweight (22 kg) LK NG leFla project, a joint effort by BGT and Eads-LFK to meet an anticipated German Army requirement for a replacement for the current LeFlaSys around 2009.

BGT also sees a potential market for a vertically launched derivative of the Iris-T, to serve as an inexpensive complement for the Pac-3 and Aim-120 in the air defence role. The goal here is to provide an easy-to-operate system, to cope with targets that do not really require the virtues of the Pac 3 such as combat aircraft, helicopters and cruise missiles. Known as the Iris-T SL (for surface launch) it is fitted with an uprated low-signature rocket motor to provide a higher total impulse. The new motor has a larger diameter and lengthens the missile by about 15 cm. However, the performance and flight altitude--both proven and qualified--will not be exceeded and the thrust-vector control, which has been demonstrated in numerous ground and flight tests, will be maintained. The missile will be stored and launched from a deployable air defence platform, designed in co-operation with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Diehl Munitions-systeme. Naturally, the deployable launcher (which will carry six Iris-T SLs) is to be interoperable with the container interface of the Multi truck in service with the Bundeswehr. The Multi, with its special quick pallet loading system, is used as transport vehicle and need not be modified, and the mission module can be deployed or picked up within 70 seconds. The mission module itself comprises three main assemblies: a supply module, a launch module and a support structure. After the levelling of the launch platform with four actuators, the missile launch module is erected to a vertical position, ready to fire. It goes without saying that the weapon computer is connected to the data network of the air defence system. This is done through a standard interface (MIL-STD-1760). The missile is connected to the mission module via a radio data link that enables it to perform a post-launch target acquisition after a relatively long midcourse guidance phase, including in adverse weather conditions. By using as many readily developed and qualified elements, both final development and production should enable the manufacturers to offer a lower cost weapon than any other counterpart built new from the ground up.
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Title Annotation:Missile Technology
Author:Braybrook, Roy
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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