Remember the days when one was visiting a destination had to carry multiple things, such as travel documents, a music player or FM radio to enjoy the travel, a mobile phone to communicate with dear ones, a camera to capture the sightseeing, places, moments, etc. do we carry things in the same way even now? not necessarily right! one smartphone has probably got all the functions of these multiple devices. Let’s look at another example, we have so many types of screw heads like slotted, phillips, six-lobe, hexagon, double-square, etc.

a technician had to carry multiple drivers for each of these screw heads, but it is not necessarily required, because alternatively a technician can carry a screwdriver set which has common holder/handle and the tips can be attached according to the application. Likewise, there are so many different types of launchers for missiles that fire only a specific type of missile. So, is there any alternative?

Missiles are short-range, long-range, high-altitude, attack, air-defense, supersonic, subsonic, cruise, etc. each type of these missile differs in its dimensions, weight, and electronics which are designed to the specific configuration. Now, the canister/launcher for any of these types of missiles is also different. So basically, a launcher/canister can fire only one type of missile. To address this shortcoming countries such as the United States, China and Russia have designed or deployed launch systems that can fire multiple missiles, which are called as Universal vertical launch systems (UVLS) or Adaptable launch systems (ALS).

Mark.41VLS (USA)

This is a ship-borne Vertical Launch System present in allied forces warships along with the United States Navy. This system can fire missiles such as 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. There’s also Mark.57 VLS which is an improved version of Mark.41

GJB 5860-2006 (China)

The People’s Liberation Army Navy doesn’t have a standard name but ‘GJB 5860-2006’ is a technical document that outlines the standards for VLS, these systems are commonly called concentric canister launch (CCL). These systems are capable of both hot and cold launches. This VLS system can fire missiles such as YJ-18 anti-ship missiles, YJ-21 anti-ship missiles, HHQ-9 SAM, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.

UKSK-M (Russia)

This is an upcoming UVLS of Russia, which can fire operational missiles like antiaircraft, cruise, antiship, antisubmarine, and perspective hypersonic 3M22 missiles (Tsirkon).

5P85TE2 (Russia)

This is a 10×10 wheeled launcher consisting of 4 tubes associated with the S-400 air defense system. 5P85TE2 can transport and vertically fire combination of surface-to-air missiles, such as 4 x 48N6E2 (200km) or 48N6E3 (250km), 2 x 40N6E (400km) long range or 12 x 9M96E (40km) or 9M96E2 (120km) high maneuverable missiles. A 48N6E missile launcher can be replaced by three 9M96E missiles. So, the 5P8TE2 is an adaptable launch system as well.

These Multi mission missile launchers offer various advantages (Specially to warships) such as:
• It can carry any type of missile based on offensive/defensive missions
• Allows greater flexibility to warship design and manufacturing
• Reduced maintenance or modification costs of launch systems
• New missiles can be introduced to universal/adaptable launchers easily
• These canister/launchers can carry one large missile or pack of small missiles

When a universal/adaptable launcher is designed, it is made in such a way that the canister/launcher can accommodate missiles of various dimensions and masses. Also, when next-generation or future missiles are designed, then these missiles can be easily integrated into these launchers. since new missiles can be designed keeping universal launchers in mind. Long-range missiles would be large & heavy whereas small or medium-range missiles would be comparatively less heavy. Either one large missile (or) pack of small missiles with help of fixtures can be mounted to these launchers making them very adaptable and flexible as to required missions.

India’s arsenal consists of an array of missiles from imported to indigenous ones, but we are lagging in the category of Universal or adaptable launch systems. Look at the Indian Navy’s most prominent weapons in the frontline warships.

  1. Brahmos (supersonic cruise attack missile)
  2. Barak-8 (air defence missile)

Brahmos is an Indo-Russian collaboration and Barak-8 is an Indo-Israeli collaboration, hence both have different design configurations with their launcher systems. Both missiles are VLS configured. If India manages to design a canister/launcher that can accommodate and fire both missiles for future warships, then that would allow greater flexibility for the navy in its mission configuration. For example, if a warship is going on an offensive mission, then it can carry higher number of Brahmos missiles and lesser Barak-8 or if a warship is in an air-defense mission then it will be vice versa. It would be politically difficult for India to convince two countries to collaborate onsharing software launch codes of missiles to integrate them into one launcher.

India Should start developing new missile systems with Universal or adaptable launchers. The system should be capable of firing a variety of missiles like air defense, cruise, anti-ship, surface-to-surface, etc. This would allow future warships to be multi-mission ready. Since weapons loadout configuration wouldn’t be a worrisome factor. Warships with Universal/adaptable systems would make weapons replenishment and logistics handling easier than warships with multiple types of missiles. India should also develop a land-based system with erector launcher vehicles that should be able to fire surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles of different ranges.


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Article by DINESH BEHARA/,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or