The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) launched a Standard Missile (SM) 2 during a missile exercise (MSLEX). MSLEXs are designed to maintain readiness, proficiency and lethality. (U.S. Navy photo)
When a navy Sailor embarks on a ship headed out to sea for the first time, the vast expanse of blue water disguises any potential lurking threat that a warship could confront. With vast expanses of sparkling blue seas and calm waters, it can sometimes feel like there’s nothing around for miles and miles. But, Sailors know to always be prepared, as you never know what may be lurking nearby. Because of this, sound defenses and quick reaction are necessary to protect the ship if the crew is called into action.

Key to that capability is the Mk 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS). Embedded on the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke class destroyers, as well as on the ships of other allied nations, VLS stores and launches a wide variety of offensive and defensive missiles.

“The VLS system has been and will continue to be one of the most flexible and reliable weapon systems used by the U.S. and allied navies around the world,” said Jason Warnke, director of launching systems at BAE Systems. “It provides the versatility needed to address multiple threats, allowing Sailors to effectively and safely execute their mission.”

An alarm sounds

BAE Systems plays an integral role in the design, manufacturing, and upgrade of VLS, and produces the canisters that store, transport, and launch the missiles. This highly-survivable system lives under the deck of the ship, leaving only a series of small hatches visible forward and aft on the launch deck. When ready to fire, an alarm sounds warning the crew of the impending blast. The designated hatch opens and out comes a missile surrounded by flames, followed shortly by a cloud of smoke as the missile roars into the sky in route to its target.

The VLS system and its missiles are capable of performing a wide array of missions, including striking land, sea, or air targets. The system can also be utilized defensively to take out incoming air or sea threats to the ship or the battlegroup. Each missile is housed within a canister that is loaded onto the ship into an eight-cell launcher module, which is arranged a bit like an egg carton, with each cell enclosed by a small hatch. The Mk 41 is capable of simultaneously preparing two missiles in each module, allowing for fast reaction to multiple threats with concentrated and continuous firepower.

Capable of launching different types of missiles designed for specific missions, the VLS can launch SM Standard Missiles, the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM), the Evolved Sea Sparrow, and the vertical launch anti-submarine rocket known as ASROC.

A long history

As the mechanical design agent for Mk 41 VLS and the designer and producer of VLS missile canisters, BAE Systems has over 30 years of experience in the development, production, and support of this critical system for naval forces throughout the world. With a commitment to innovation, BAE Systems is dedicated to supporting sailors as they perform their mission by providing them with the latest survivable, capable, and flexible systems.

With this capability, our Sailors set out to sea knowing that they are not alone, with the Mk 41 VLS they are capable of carrying out their mission and confronting threats anywhere in the world.
12 Default Profile Image
Michelle Tiemeyer
Specialist, Communications
Combat Mission Systems

+001 717 645 6553

57 Mk3 Naval Gun

We provide a wide range of munitions, explosives, and gun and artillery systems.

Our global reach brings our customers a depth and breadth of munitions, explosives, gun systems and artillery systems that meet critical needs in the air, on land, and at sea. We also manage and operate munitions facilities that provide and support critical national capabilities.
See our offerings
Lori, CMS Bradley driver

What’s it like to work with a company protecting what really matters?


Find a career that’s meaningful and empowering.
Make your mark