February 19, 2016

Advantages of Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) for Ships.


Standard SM-6 missiles vertically launched. Serious flames - Made in the USA.
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Russia has developed coffin launchers for many ship sizes over many decades. But Russia has now succumbed to superior Western vertical launch technology. Russian and Chinese reverse engineering being the highest form of flattery.

For example here are some of Russia's old coffin launchers in action on small early model Molniya class corvettes https://youtu.be/8UAPGBcPY80?t=2m44s (missile demo ends at 3 minutes). 

Russian coffin launched missiles appear semi-aimed. They are fired with considerable momentum. This may involve the whole ship turning in the direction of the target or a lot of fuel expenditure for the missile to alter course. Either stacking the coffins or loading them with missiles in port may be a difficult business.

For some of those reasons Russia is increasingly turning to vertical launch systems - like the West (mainly US) has used since the 1980s. 
Russia's October 2015 Caspian Sea vertical launching of 26 Kalibr cruise missiles - even from small later model Buyan class corvettes
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Not only the missiles can be rearranged but the Mark 41 system allows whole modules to be chopped and changed. (Diagram courtesy http://www.tpub.com/gunners/184.htm)
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The advantages of VLS include:

1.  It allows ships to load (in port) a selection of missile types tailored for possible missions. So 96 Mk 41 VLS cells on an Arleigh Burke class destroyer that is planning land attack cruise missiling of ISIS in Syria/Iraq, could be armed with (say):

-  70 Tomahawks (land attack),
-  10 ASROCs (anti-sub) and
-  16 SAM.
 Harpoon ASMs have their own diagonal launchers.

2. It is cheaper and easier to alter VLS modules and cells for new missile systems.

3.  Vertical modules can be more tightly packed (better using limited deck space than diagonal coffin launchers).

4. Fewer moving parts to go wrong

5. Greater safety and more balanced-aerodynamic launch as the missile flies straight up long enough to clear the cell and the ship, and then turns on course. Calm seas and low wind speeds help.

6. Not as vulnerable as coffins to blowing/falling over in rough seas or windy conditions.

The US has had ship VLS for decades and now Russia and China are adopting VLS in ever smaller ship types.

Here's a toe-tapping, missile-including piece of Russian techno-porn - just for fun.
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Have a good weekend.

Pete

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

if you mean VLS as an universal All-In-One-Box system for all types of naval weapons, then I support your statement.

But the Sovietunion already had vertical revolver-style launcher for their naval SAM systems. It's just Shaddock/Bazalt/Vulkan ASMs are just way too big for any sensible VLS. Granits on the other hand are fired from system-specific VLS on the Kirovs.

Russia already developed semi-universal VLS like the Redut/ UKSK in the 90s, but just didn't have any money for testing / deployment. Their latest designs/ships do come with both VLS for SAM & Strike.

The Chinese are still catching up, so they are not going to reinvent the wheel aka concepts.

Let's not forget that the Western navies are still deploying Harpoons in coffins and torpedoes from triple-launchers.

Fancy destroyers with fancy VLS, but only !2! SAM in the silos or no anti-ship missiles at all are useless when the SHTF.-> See German frigates on deployment or RN Daring-class DDG in recent years.

Additionaly Western VLS differ in "strike-length" -> SYLVER-35/45/50/70 or Mk.41. No possibity for Tomahawk onboard of many ships with Mk41-VLS.

Smaller Euro-designs only have VLS for short/medium-range SAM and nothing else besides the gun, something the Chinese Type-54 FFGs and Russian Steregushchy-class & Admiral Grigorovich-class FFG also have since the mid 2000s.

If I understand the posters at sinodefenceforum.com correctly the Chinese also can quad-pack short-range missiles in their latest VLS onboard the Type-52D DDGs.

Your proposed loadout is nice for stomping incompetent militaries and banana-republics. But even a small, but competent navy like the Singaporian or Vietnamese will demand a much larger SAM loadout. Facing the nearly one hundred Type-22 FAC with their "stealh"-coffins is no fun. Not so many silos left for LACMs.

Cheers

Team Eurowussies

Anonymous said...

The main advantage of a vertical launch is the 360 degrees coverage, especially critical with SAM. With coffin or tube launchers, as in the Molnya, you can only fire in the frontal arc or you need to re-position the ship.
Russia's Buyan M is likely the smallest ship that packs a VLS. But on Russian forums, it is said the Buyan M does not have good sea keeping abilities. My guess is that UKSK VLS packs 9m long Kalibr or Onix/Brahmos. Given the ship's draught is just 2,5m, and you still have tanks (fuel, water) likely at the bottom to make it a double hull. Essentially you have all that VLS weight, ~30 tons for 8 Kalibr, high up.
KQN

Josh said...

VLS also increases RoF by eliminating reload and "cue & slew" time - that is, the time for launch rails to rotate in two dimensions to full vertical to accept reloads and then maneuver back into launch position down the threat axis. Combined with 360 degree coverage from ejecting clear above the super structure which prevents the masking of weapons mounts (already mentioned by TE), this maximizes the number of weapons that can be launched in a short period of time - especially necessary for SAM engagements against saturation attacks.

As mentioned VLS comes in many flavors, from 'strike' length necessary for very long weapons or weapons with large boosters like SM-3/SM-6/BGM-109 to shorter sizes with less weight and deck penetration such such that only 'medium' weapons (SM-2/VLASROC) can be accommodated. There are also very short versions only suitable for ESSM including some newer specialty light weight systems such as Mk58.

I'm less familiar with the Sylver system but I don't think it has a 'strike' length flavor. Currently I think that system is largely limited to SAMs, not so much by design but a shortage of other weapons tested and cleared to be fired. A quick wiki search indicates SCALP can be carried. I'd assume Storm Shadow could be as well if anyone wanted to spend the money (Harpoon VLS integration was scrapped in the early 90's IIRC; it wasn't technically challenging but the USN didn't feel the need to pay for it). Whatever the next flavor of AShM is for the USN (likely/hopefully LRASM) it will be VLS as well, though in the USN every SAM besides SM-3 ABM has a surface engagement mode from the SM-6 down to the most recent block of RAM.

Cheers,
Josh

Josh said...

@KQN: Buyan M probably has a relatively high CG for its size, but on the other hand they all are assigned to Caspian and Black Sea so far. There's at least one in the Med now from the Black Sea fleet, but even the Med isn't open ocean. I doubt you will ever see this type employed outside the Black Sea flt or Caspian flotilla. Used in those waters it probably has all the stability it needs.

Cheers,
Josh

Anonymous said...

Or just fire the missile out of a torpedo tube:

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/this-russian-missile-that-is-slung-out-of-a-ships-torpe-1737906897

:)

Peter Coates said...

Hi All

Thanks for your comments. Some agreeing and ideas:

My concept of VLS is Mark 41 and 57 style VLS "universal All-In-One-Box system for all types of missiles" except Harpoon.

Yep Vertical launch implies 360 degrees coverage.

Coffin or tubes are too dependent on being aimed, including aiming whole ship.

Indeed another advantage of VLS is it doesn't involve reload lag or chance moving parts will fail. Less chance all VLS cells will be incapacitated by enemy fire.

Any tendency of European missile makers to build specialised own-missile-brand only (including cruise) VLS should be avoided.

A concern is an enemy might choose rough seas, high wind times to launch an attack knowing VLS dependent Western forces might be hamstrung by VLS's launch dynamics. Also Western radar, satellite and SOSUS will be reduced under rough conditions.
- a historical precedent of exploiting rough weather is Pearl Harbour http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Pearl_Harbor.aspx "The force departed on 26 November. To avoid detection, [the Japanese Fleet] followed a storm front and maintained strict radio silence"

If a storm is only likely to last a day it might be a good time for Chinese forces to set out against Taiwan with the calculation the sun will shine just before reaching the coast of Taiwan. Be alert for one day storms you guys in Taipei! :)

Pete

Anonymous said...

Pete,
Chinese and Russian ship designs limit any weapon launch beyond sea state 5 and I think US ship design is slightly better at sea state 6 probably thanks to better active stabilization.
All these surface combatants with all sorts of radars high on top are going to roll quite a bit in quartering following seas, the Burke is known to roll to 60 degrees which is down right scary. When I look at Russia's future "Leader" class heavy destroyers or light cruisers with the tall monstrous tower, even though the designers put in active stabilizers and low aspect ratio bilge keels, I bet that ship will roll. Just as that RCL 120K+ tons German designed cruise ship that ended up in sea state 7+ because they misread the weather off Cape Hatteras (it rolled to ~45 degrees)
But fore sure one can take advantage of a storm for a surprise attack if one knows how to read weather routing well as was the case with D-day.
KQN

Anonymous said...

USN re-programmed their SM-2 and SM-6 to function also as AShm will likely start a mini revolution in doing the same for SAM batteries to act as secondary AShm coast batteries.

With the SM-2 and SM-6, the warhead is quite small at just 60kgs of HE, but this is plenty sufficient to disable all the radars and sensors of a combatant or for sure fight off a swarm of say Type 22 corvettes. Sure you will need to use AWACS E-2D as well as F/A-18 or UAV to provide over the horizon targeting.

But when you look at the Russian SAM systems like the S-400 with its 400km 40N6 or the S-300V4 with its 400km 9M82, those have 150kg warheads (the Brahmos has a 200kg warhead). A re-programming with mid course updates coming from airborne radars/sensors can make them long range hypersonic AShm. Take the 9M82M which hits ~M10 in the boost phase, even in its terminal gliding phase it will still be ~M5+.

Even though VLS reduces the reloading time, against saturation attacks, a SAM system is still limited by the computer processing capabilities and the number of engagement channels. Take the SAMP/T Aster 30 on the FREMM frigates, it has 10-16 engagement channels. If you double up for each low flying target, that is only 5 to 8 targets maximum.
KQN

Peter Coates said...

Thanks KQN [at 20/2/16 11:44 PM]

So much about air warfare destroyers and frigates for systematic writing.

Once the Aussie submarine decision is made media focus will shift to the Future Frigate and OPV selections. FREMM and all the surrounding missile and sensor issues will certainly feature in my altered blog.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi KQN [at 20/2/16 10:56 PM]

If/when China transitions from building (islands, mainland bases and carrier ships) it may be time for the big operations like Taiwan, Okinawa and perhaps one day the Philippines or even invading or making neutral Japan.

Reading the weather will become even more essential.

Japan has experienced such scenarios before with Divine Wind: The Japanese word kamikaze is usually translated as "divine wind". The word originated in August 1281 as the name of major typhoons which dispersed Mongolian [Chinese] invasion fleets under Kublai Khan in 1274." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamikaze#Definition_and_etymology

So lets hope poor reading of the weather ruins a few of China's ops.

Regards

Pete

Ztev Konrad said...

From a stability point of view, the vertical launch is better than coffin launchers ( above deck) but not as good as revolver launchers ( deeper down hull- below waterline ?). Of course vertical launch boxes can and are filled on superstructure as well ( Anzac class).
Putting your weapons above water line or worse in superstructure means more beam, which was happening anyway in the move to gas turbines. Post war frigates had heavy boilers and steam turbines on the lowest decks. Magazines were normally deep inside hull too.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev Konrad

Can you supply a link or two (with pictures) to clarify what kind of revolver launchers you are referring to?

Regards

Pete

Josh said...

Some Russian VLA SAMs use a revolving cylinder with multiple rounds fed to single vertical launch tubes, as in the navalized version of S-300. Advantages in safety; introduces potential reliability issues.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-300_%28missile%29#S-300F



Chinese naval HH-9 version changes this apparently to rotate the cold launch system, but still keep the missile in independent tubes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-300_%28missile%29#S-300F

The Chinese switched back to a non moving system with the Type 52D.



I wouldn't have thought either of these methods would greatly affect sea state launch parameters but maybe if the ejection were from deeper in the ship there might be less side to side inertia on the missile to start with. Since the missile still has to rise through the deck I'd think it would have similar liabilities though. If anything I'd think the speed of the launch would have a great deal more effect on launch envelope - I'd think the missile rising out of its cell the fastest would have the greatest advantage in launch in rough sea, though I don't know what the relatively speeds or energies of the different systems are and I'm just guessing in any case.


Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh [at 24/2/16 5:21 AM]

Thanks for the information and links.

I imagine there are trade-offs with any launch configuration.

China certainly seems to be developing modern armed forces. No more human waves of barely trained Chinese "volunteers" that fought Australian forces at Kapyong https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kapyong during the Korean War.

Regards

Pete