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RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM)

Type Medium-range surface-to-air missile
Place of origin  United States
Service history
In service February 2004 aboard USS Chafee
Used by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and the US[1]
Production history
Manufacturer Raytheon
Unit cost $800,000[3]
Produced September 1998
Number built 2000th missile delivered 2 August 2012[2]
Weight 620 lb (280 kg)
Length 12 ft (3.66 m)
Diameter 10 in (254 mm)

Warhead 86 lb (39 kg) blast-fragmentation
Proximity fuze

Engine Mk 143 Mod 0 solid fuel rocket
27nm (50 km)
Speed Mach 4+ [4]
Midcourse datalink
Terminal semi-active radar homing
Mk 41 VLS (RIM-162A/B)
Mk 48 VLS (RIM-162C)
Mk 29 box launcher (RIM-162D)[5]

The RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) is a development of the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile used to protect ships from attacking missiles and aircraft.[6] ESSM is designed to counter supersonic maneuvering anti-ship missiles. ESSM also has the ability to be "quad-packed" in the Mk 41 VLS system, allowing up to four ESSMs to be carried in a single cell.

Many countries are using or plan to use the ESSM. The first countries to achieve operational status for ESSM were the United States and Australia. Canada, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates have also integrated or are in the process of integrating the ESSM.


Compared to the Sea Sparrow, ESSM has a larger, more powerful rocket motor for increased range and agility, as well as upgraded aerodynamics using strakes and skid-to-turn. In addition, ESSM takes advantage of the latest missile guidance technology, with different versions for Aegis/SPY-1, Sewaco/APAR, and traditional target illumination all-the-way. The improved ESSM Block II will be fielded by the US Navy from 2020.[7]


The original launcher is Mark 29 Guided Missile Launching System Mod. 4 & 5 (Mk 29 GMLS Mod 4 & 5), which is developed from earlier models Mk 29 Mod 1/2/3 for Sea Sparrow. Mk 29 launchers provide on-mount stowage and launching capability for firing up to eight missiles in a self contained environmentally controlled trainable launcher design. Furthermore, ESSM can also be launched from Mk 41 VLS, with up to 4 missile in each cell.

Mk 48

In addition to the Mk 29 GMLS and Mk 41 VLS systems, the other primary launcher is Mk 48 VLS. The 2-cell module of Mk-48 makes the system very versatile and enables it to be installed on board in spaces that otherwise cannot be utilized. The weight of a 2-cell module of Mk-48 is 1,450 pounds (with empty canisters), 725 pounds for exhaust system, and 800 pounds for ship installation interfaces. Each canister of the Mk-48 VLS houses a single RIM-7VL (Vertically Launched) Sea Sparrow cell or two RIM-162 ESSM cells, though, with modification, other missiles can also be launched. There are a total of four models in the Mk 48 family, with Mod 0 & 1 housing either 2 RIM-7VL or 4 RIM-162 cells, Mod 2 housing either 16 RIM-7VL or 32 RIM-162 cells. Mod 0/1/2 are usually grouped into either a 16-cell module for RIM-7VL or a 32-cell module for RIM-162. Mod 3 fits into the StanFlex modules on Royal Danish Navy ships and can house either 6 RIM-7VL or 12 RIM-162 cells; the Danes now use the latter.

Vertical Missile Launcher Mk 48 GMVLS
Above deck:
Mod # Width (cm) Depth (cm) Height (cm) Above Deck Weight (kg)
w/ 16 RIM-7VLs
Below Deck Weight (kg)
w/ 16 RIM-7VLs
Above Deck Weight (kg)
w/ 32 RIM-162s
Below Deck Weight (kg)
w/ 32 RIM-162s
Mod 0 228 127 478 15,128 814 29,568 408
Mod 1 173 132 465 12,464 814 26,020 408
Mod 2 477 417 474 16,834 814 30,482 408
Mod 3 366 271 473 7,272 476 11,340 476
Below deck:
Missile Launching System
(1 per 16 cells, not required for Mod 3)
61 99 132 - - - -
Electrical Interface Unit
(1 per 4 cells, not required for Mod 3)
64 45 91 - - - -
Launching Controller
(1 per 8 cells, not required for Mod 3)
152 34 200 - - - -
ESSM Launching Controller
(1 per 16 cells, ESSM cells)
89 30 178 - - - -

Mk 56

The successor of Mk 48 VLS, Mark 56 Guided Missile Vertical Launching Sysem (Mk 56 GMVLS) or simply Mk 56, is latest launcher developed for RIM-162 ESSM. In comparison to its predecessor, Mk 56 utilize greater percentage of composite material, reducing the weight more than 20%. Specifications:

Vertical Missile Launcher Mk 56 GMVLS
# of missiles 4 12 32 launch controller
(1 per 16 missiles)
Width (cm) 173 366 477 94
Depth (cm) 132 271 417 34
Height (cm) 465 465 465 190
Weight (kg) w/ missiles 3,464 10,200 23,859 -
weight (kg) w/
below deck launch controller
3,714 10,450 24,359 250

Operational history

US operational evaluation was conducted in July 2002 aboard USS Shoup (DDG-86). Initial operational capability did not occur until later.[8]

In October 2003, at the USN Pacific Missile Range Facility near Hawaii, Australian frigate HMAS Warramunga conducted a successful firing of an ESSM. The firing was also the first operational use of the CEA Technologies CWI for guidance.[9] [10]

In November 2003, approximately 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the Azores, the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën conducted a live fire test of a single ESSM. This firing was the first ever live firing involving a full-size ship-borne Active Electronically Scanned Array (i.e. the APAR radar) guiding a missile using the Interrupted Continuous Wave Illumination (ICWI) technique in an operational environment.[11] As related by Jane's Navy International:

During the tracking and missile-firing tests, target profiles were provided by Greek-built EADS/3Sigma Iris PVK medium-range subsonic target drones. [...] According to the RNLN, ... "APAR immediately acquired the missile and maintained track until destruction". [...] These ground-breaking tests represented the world's first live verification of the ICWI technique.[12]

In August 2004 a German Navy Sachsen class frigate completed a series of live missile firings at the Point Mugu missile launch range off the coast of California that included a total of 11 ESSM missile firings.[12] The tests included firings against target drones such as the Northrup Grumman BQM-74E Chukkar III and Teledyne Ryan BQM-34S Firebee I, as well as against missile targets such as the Beech AQM-37C and air-launched Kormoran 1 anti-ship missiles.[12]

Further live firings were performed by the RNLN's HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën in March 2005, again in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 180 nautical miles (330 km) west of the Azores.[12] The tests involved three live-firing events (two of which involved the ESSM) including firing a single SM-2 Block IIIA at an Iris target drone at long range, a single ESSM at an Iris target drone, and a two-salvo launch (with one salvo comprising two SM-2 Block IIIAs and the other comprising two ESSMs) against two incoming Iris target drones.[12]

All ESSM launches from De Zeven Provinciën class frigates and Sachsen class frigates involved ESSMs quad-packed in a Mark 41 vertical launch system.

The first "kill" by the RIM-162D from a United States Navy carrier's Mk 29 launcher was achieved during a training exercise by the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) on 7 October 2008.[13]

On 14 May 2013, the ESSM intercepted a high-diving supersonic test target, demonstrating the ability to hit high-G maneuvering. No software changes were needed to prove the ESSM's enhanced capability.[14]

See also


External links

  • Designation Raytheon RIM-162 ESSM
  • Global RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM)
  • NATO SEASPARROW Project Office
  • NAMMO Raufoss - Nordic Ammunition Company
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