VLS Underway Replenishment: When will the Navy get serious?

by Craig Hooper
Defense Tech Naval Warfare Analyst

In a high-threat environment, the Navy’s AEGIS vessels have a problem. They cannot be re-armed. AEGIS cruisers have 122 vertical launch system (VLS) cells, while the destroyers have 96. Each magazine is “multi-use,” composed of specialized land attack and self-defense weapons, so a desired missile may not be available in sufficient numbers. Complicating matters, AEGIS vessels sometimes sail with a partially-filled magazines, and missile reliability rates aren’t often anywhere near 100%.

CSBA expert Jan Van Tol, in his recent AirSea Battle monograph (.pdf), is the latest to highlight this vulnerability, and pointedly suggests that, given the way high-end warfare is likely to be waged, “the Navy should continue its efforts to develop and field the capability to rearm surface ship VLS cells at sea.”

But…what efforts? VLS underway replenishment (UNREP) has been a long-standing—and long-ignored- vulnerability. Take this editorial snippet from a Fall 1988 issue of the long-unheralded UNREP Journal:

“In wartime the enemy decides when and where we expend defensive ammo, so an ammo UNREP may be needed any time, even when the seas are rough or the decks are icy. While we may be able to rearm our aircraft carriers under these conditions, our ability to handle missiles in dollies or in VLS canisters on cruisers, destroyers, and frigates is extremely poor.

The magnitude of the missile handling problem has been minimized over the past 25 years because of a lack of a missile war and the infrequent missile UNREPs to cruisers, destroyers and frigates. We do transfer stores in peacetime that have to be deck handled, but our peacetime UNREP policy is “safety first”, so we can wait for seas to abate and the ice to melt. As a result, a serious ammo UNREP problem has not had much visibility.

The U.S. Navy had an answer in the 1960’s to transferring and striking down missiles in heavy weather or even with icy decks. It was called FAST for Fast Automatic Shuttle Transfer. FAST demonstrated a transfer/strikedown rate of 24 TARTAR missiles per hour at night in sea state six conditions (compared to four VLS missiles per hour now in daytime and calm seas). While we can still transfer missiles between ships at a high rate, deck handling, and strikedown are the limiting factors. Deck handling was solved by FAST because missiles were automatically moved from the UNREP station to the magazine strikedown without sailors having to push-pull dollies or hand trucks. However, the complexities of the automated FAST handling equipment created an unacceptable maintenance burden on both the UNREP and combatant ships because FAST required the services of shipboard technicians that were either not available or were needed to maintain the ship’s missile launchers. As a result, FAST wouldn’t work when needed nor perform as planned. FAST had to be simplified in the 1970’s to our current STREAM system.

What should be done today about rearming missiles? The right missile handling system must be superior to what we have today, but not nearly so complicated as FAST. The right system must be highly reliable so as to withstand long periods of disuse and still work when needed. The right system must be simple in design so that no extensive specialized training is required for the crew. The right system must be able to safely handle missiles in heavy weather and on icy decks….

…There are some who say that UNREP of missiles is too hard and, therefore, the requirement should be eliminated; however, the recent missile firing experience by U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf should alert us to the future….When the going gets tough a great amount of ammo will be expended in a short time. The next urgent requirement is to quickly reload those empty magazines and be ready for whatever follows. Underway replenishment is the only answer for the fleet commander and we need to do it better.”

This passage was written almost a year BEFORE the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) was even launched. So, it’s safe to say that AEGIS vessels have not been designed with missile UNREP in mind—and, yet, they’ve done just fine.

But today, given the anticipated growth in demand for VLS cells, is it time to start considering the need for rapid VLS UNREP? Is there a way to design VLS cells (and VLS-dependent ships) to facilitate fast underway replenishment of depleted missile batteries?

With the restart of the DDG-51 program, this is something the Navy community must discuss. Now that America has gone a couple generations without incorporating ease of missile UNREP in warship design, has the Navy simply overlooked the possibility of designing missile ships so they can quickly be replenished?

  • Ted Washington

    Why create a weapons system you can’t reload during a live battle? Would you get into a firefight with a weapon you could not reload? 21 years ago when the DDG-51 was taking to sea we may have seemed more invunerable than we are now but still… Should we “fix” this on future DDG-51 and retrofit to current VLS cells… DUH!

  • prometheusgonewild

    The Navy proposed a missile ship a couple years back.
    I do not remember the exact configuration, but it was supposed to be a commercial ship design with minimal crew to keep the cost down.
    For some reason Congress hated it. So the powers that be shot it down.
    I assume their plan now is to have the missiles flown onto the carriers, where they then could be distributed at sea.

    • Donald Gault

      It is hard enough to take on missiles in port, and it would be down right dangerous to do it out at sea.

  • Christopher Bloom

    Do Russian VLS systems have the capability to rearm at sea?

    DO older canister systems have greater reliability and ease of reloading than modern VLS systems?

    • Anon

      no and generally, no.

  • WTH

    Some factual inaccuracies here. Earlier VLS installs had a crane that took up 3 of the cells. For example a CG has a published 122 cells. (64 cell launcher - 3 cells for crane)*2=122. From DDG-79 on the crane setup is not included, as far as I know the heads figured the extra 6 cells were more useful than the crane system that was never used.

  • Luba Schifko

    wow i love these, my girlfriend has a blue one!

  • @rarianrakista

    People, anti-ship missile technology has become so ubiquitous and cheap that it makes no sense to worry about whether a ship can reload its defenses against them. If a state wishes to sink an American warship it merely needs to fire X amount of ASMs at a rate at which the AEGIS system will be overwhelmed. It only takes one maybe two to scuttle a ship.

    Cost of ASM ~500k.

    Iran was rumored to be working on a nuclear ASM, whatever happened with that?
    http://www.rense.com/general59/theSunburniransawe…

    • Mastro

      I guess they need the nukes first?

    • IronV

      “Merely needs to overwhelm and AEGIS system??” That’s some rate of fire and some stockpile of missiles, dude. Good luck with that.

    • wil

      these aren’t anti-ship

    • jonny soft kill

      You obviously don’t know anything about anti-ship missile counter-measures, so why offer an ignorant opinion?

  • Jock Williams

    If we can cap an oil well five thousand feet beneath the sea surely we can put a missile onto a ship underway…

    But wait!…

    Jock Williams Yogi 13

    • Guest

      It’s not caped yet!!!

  • StevenDDeacon

    It’s ridiculous that the US Navy was so short sited that when planning the AEGIS class Cruisers and Destroyers they did not design a system for reloading VLS cells at sea. We are perfectly capable of rearming and supplying our Aircraft Carriers but not the vessels which are suppose to be protecting them!

    • Locarno

      See comments above. They can and did. They *removed* it, because they’d prefer to have a few extra missiles now, rather than the ability to reload the empty tubes in two days time.

    • Louis

      People keep saying that since we can rearm carriers we should be able to rearm cruisers and destroyers just as easily. I can only assume that these people have no idea how differently these smaller vessels ride in the water than something as large as a carrier. Carriers have a huge flat space on top to receive ordnance. They also have large hangers to rearm aircraft while protected from the elements. Cruisers and Destroyers do not have anywhere near as much space or stability. While I agree that it is extremely important to develop a viable method of rearming at sea, you can not use the one as a reason for the other since they are so drastically unequal in difficulty.

    • Wil

      They did, they took it away

  • nraddin

    This seems like an issue of the DOD making things more complicated than they need to be.
    If all they really need to do is get them from the UNREP point to the silo a simple crane and dog catches at the silo would solve 90% of the problem without being complicated at all.

    Or maybe put tracks on the deck, they can be recessed if needed, and gas/electric carts that will stand the missile at the silo. With it locked onto the rails you have no issue with sea.

    Or develop a UNREP system that puts the missile cans next to the launcher and then just use the built in crane (Each launcher group has one tube used to hold a small crane) to pick them up and set them in their silo.

    I could really go on and on, it seems like there are 100 easy ways to solve this problem. Fishermen go out in the worst weather, and pull up multi-ton pots and nets, with pretty basic equipment, if they can do it the Navy should be able to do it.

  • Mastro

    Can they reload ships in Bahrain? Naples? If so- this doesn’t look as bad as it is.

  • jsallison

    Instead of reloading one box at a time, how about swapping out the whole bloody missile bay as a unit. Or tow a barge behind the fire control hauler and launch remotely. Heck run a data link cable with the tow cable and you don’t even have to worry about wireless. Then the only reload question is how many missile barges can a DDG tow

  • Bronco46

    This seems to be the argument for an “Arsenal Ship”; and attack ship designed to make maximum use of automation to reduce crew size and maximize the number of weapons on board. Make the ship big enough to be a serious bombardment vessel, with some self protection, but then use the Burkes to support it. A ship designed from scratch with a single mission to reduce costs. We need to get away, in certain cases, from weapons systems that try to do everything.

  • Mark1

    Port Hueneme did demonstrate a VLS reloading gizmo back in the 80’s. They installed two railroad type rails permanently on the deck, straddling the VLS launcher, and could UNREP over a traveling crane thingy from the UNREP ship and place it on the rails. The crane could positively hold the cannister in a cradle(unlike the the Navy’s pop up crane that hung the cannister from a wire rope) and recieve a cannister from the UNREP ship and place it in a cell. It would work safely in higher sea states. NAVSEA just wasn’t interested in pursuing it.

  • blight

    I think the real issue is that replenishment is not possible in all possible sea conditions that might necessitate a reload. A replenishment system will probably work out in calm oceans, but I don’t see reload systems operating that quickly. Then again, maybe something that operates like those mobile drydocks would be a great way to replenish supplies. Move in, raise the vessel out of the water, now both platforms are stabilized with respect to each other. Replenishment begins.

    However, papernapkin theorycrafting doesn’t address the cost, feasibility studies and engineering issues…

  • Dean

    The ships themselves should have their own magazines from which they can reload the launchers (this would obviously require a re-design). In a shooting war the supply ships would be prime targets and very defenseless. On the Knox class frigate I was on, we had a 8-cell pepper box launcher (behind the 5 in. gun) that could be reloaded from the ‘huge’ magazine directly behind it (on the 01 level). In the war time situation we could hold dozens of Harpoons and ASROC missiles, the same was true of our torpedo launchers and it’s magazine. For those of you familiar with the Burke destroyer and Tico cruiser layouts, perhaps you can enlighten me on what the possibilities might be. We should depend too much on supply ships which in a shooting war would be high value targets.

    • Mike C

      The VLS package could slide horizontily from a floating ammo ship. All that would be needed would new supply ships that could first come alongside and remove the completely spent VLS cell. If all the Harpoons were spent, but the anti-air missiles unused, or vice versa the ordinace boys on the ammo supply ships could recharge partly emptied VLS stacks as the situation demands.Once it has been removed, a newly charged VLS cell could slide back into the VLS stack. Just like charging a pistol or subgun.
      Treat the entire stack as an ammo clip.

      All Aegis vesseld could be retro-fitted to accept these VLS stacks.

    • yogi

      old school

    • Sandy

      You are not Dean Van D… from the Tommy Chuck are you?

  • William C.

    Previously I thought we did have some sort of class of rearmament ship capable of reloading VLS cells. It is inexcusable that we do not in my opinion.

  • Curt

    Not seeing the problem here. As the article stated, we can’t fill the VLS holes we have now, so why worry if the unarmed, huge RCS ammunition ship can survive long enough to refill the VLS at sea? In anything short of a major conflict, there will be a port somewhere we can pull into to refill the VLS launcher using a crane.

  • Curt

    To expand further, even in a major conflict, there should be little reason to resupply at sea. With 96 VLS holes (DDG) you can carry say 32 ESSM, 24 TLAM, and 64 SM-2/3/6. Assume you have 10 DDGs/CGs (3 CSGs worth) in your major conflict, that would give you something like 300+ ESSM, 250-300 TLAM (plus another 300+ on SSGNs), 600-700 SM-2/6, and probably 30-40 SM-3 (assuming we ever buy that many). If we need more, we are in big trouble.

  • Tony C

    The VLS being a multiple launch system versus Tartar (dual launcher) is a numbers game plan. The VLS enables tremendous flexibility and as stated in many of the comments, is a relatively large number of missiles in the combat theater. If additional resources are needed, then bring in the attack submarines with their compliment of land attack missiles to supplement the surface force.
    UNREP of large unwieldy missile packs can be dangerous to both the crew and the VLS tubes. We don’t plan to UNREP the FBM submarines (assuming they are ever called upon to launch ALL of their missiles) for much of the same reasons. I think the issue is more of a what is the right mix of missiles to carry on standard deployment.

  • d-fens

    I don’t trust ABMs, on Aegis ships or elsewhere. I believe lasers are the future. Start building electric boats with lasers!

    • Guest

      “I believe the children are our future.” - Whitney Houston

    • Sharks

      Lasers are only good for line of sight.

      What’s wrong with lasers on sharks?

  • howard

    i’d modularize these things.
    like the airforce does = make it a black box deal.
    bad or empty one?
    pull it and slap in a new one.

  • Gary

    I’m guessing that a lot of you post-ers haven’t been underway in heavy weather or had to steam (for days) away from a battle scene to rearm in port.

    Read the accounts of WW II sea battles.
    The battle group usually fought as a unit and usually left the battle area as a unit to reorganize, rearm and plan.
    Also, the threat of subs always made UNREPs dangerous because the ships have to steam a straight course at fairly slow speed, which makes torpedo targeting immensely easy.

    Towing a barge is only suitable in a sea that’s glass smooth, which it often is not.

    Switching out the entire empty cell for a full cell would make for an incredibly weak ship. It would be torn apart in heavy seas.

    A mobile drydock in heavy seas would keep the ships steady relative to each other but the missiles would swing from the crane like a monkey in a tree.
    Way too dangerous!
    If a missile falls and explodes, nobody on either ship or the drydock would survive.
    There would be no way to move away from the disaster, which would normally only affect one ship.
    That’s why there’s such a thing called Emergency Breakaway.
    And it is fraught with danger.
    As one ship pulls away from the danger, if lines aren’t severed quickly enough, they get pulled until they snap and when they recoil, they can and have amputated arms and legs and cut through STEEL bulkheads.
    Today’s ships have lots of aluminum in their construction.
    Aluminum bulkheads would provide no more protection than a cotton shirt would protect someone from a bullet.

    An “Arsenal Ship” would be a detriment to the battle group.
    It, not the carrier, would be the High Value Unit (HVU) because it holds the defensive and offensive power.
    The escorts cannot truly protect 2 HVUs; one of them would be lost.
    Lose the carrier and you lose the offensive capability that was the reason for the Task Force in the first place.
    Lose the Arsenal Ship and you’ve lost the defensive protection of the entire Task Force.
    It’s a BAD idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

  • yogi

    Maybe the navy should look at how the army rearms their mlrs launcher vehicles.

  • yogi

    just remember the KISS way of doing things when addressing this short fall.

  • Tim T

    I spend several years on an AE AE22 she was one of the fast system ships that was then converted to standared unrep,

    I was on her in the 80’s and we unreped in all types of weather and sent missles over on dollys that were then loaded into the mags of the ships in question we also sent over boxrs as well,

    VLS boxes can be unreped, the issue is the DDG and CG’s just just do not have much deck space for the cargo, but the portable crains that were first designed for the load out at sea were removed to make more missle space.
    The cost of the pods is so high that the powers that be said dont risk it. The navy has not always trained as it needs to for war time but it is the penny pinchers who stop the real training, and preperation. the idea od modular ships is great, but the pentagon weenies like to keep their buddies in jobs, But we need to have the fix this.

  • DJD

    Show me a time that an Aegis ship has unloaded its VLS magazine in anger. Oh, really? Never? OK. This is an absurd argument. 90+ weapons are way more than any single platform needs. If the Russian pull all their backfires and and blackjacks out of mothballs and arm them with AS-4’s for the big war, maybe we talk about this.

  • OldBuzzard

    No need to have a reload capability, if you do not have the missiles in the inventory to reload….

    • Craig Hooper

      (Heh…That’d be called a very, very subtle hint, right?)

      The Buzzard is known to be a very wise bird…nice comment.

  • donethatb4

    Sustained AAW and ASW require very large numbers of DEFENSIVE SM-2 and ASROC to achieve required Pks. Wargames have shown in a major conflict, on-scene VLS magazines are exhausted very quickly against lower cost ASCM. No at sea reload = withdrawl from battle or lose the OFFENSIVE CV. Reload of 96 or 128 VLS at sea would take ~20 hours alongside = unrealistic. New ship design for sustained warfighting like stealthy DDG1000= too expensive. FBMs only fire once!! Lasers & DE too weather effected. Railgun only good in terminal defense. Sorry, no easy solution….

  • Ray

    As a former VLS Tech I had to shut down the cranes and lay them up drainng all the fluid and tagging them out. We had the equipment for the system for UNREP and we were trained on it. I did agree that it needed to be more refined. The Crane was not tall enough for the larger Standard Missiles (SM2 blk4) and T-hawks. But for the other missiles it worked great. plus removing the cranes also meant that the ship had to pull in to port if we had to reconfigure the launcher. I did take part in an UNREP for our VLS Fwd Launcher. It was slow but we did swap out 3 bad missiles for better ones. I agree with the article that VLS needs UNREP capability. Its all part of battle preparedness.

  • Vince

    What did the submariners do during WWII when they expended all of their torpedoes on patrol? Back to PH. I’m sure that the fleet cdr then would have liked to unrep them without going back to PH, but practicality has to be considered.

    Bottom line in my view is configure the magazine for the anticipated threat, bring enough ships to the scene, do the deed with the missiles on hand, retire to a reload port. If the threat is so large that more than a magazine load from several ships is going to be necessary, it is going to be a threat that is capable of taking out the unrep ships so forget them, and I suspect that may have been the plan all along.

  • JEFFREY DORFMAN

    I think there will be some Admirals about to retire soon. Where were the manufacturer’s reps? Didn’t they see there was no real practicle way to rearm these ships? I smell possible “kick back” schemes here.
    -J.Dorfman, USNR-R

  • Guest John E.

    I Agree with Ted Washington and Gary. UNREP is dangerous operation . No matter how it is done.Doing it super fast is a no no. however I would have these Specailist who want check out other Countries how they do Under Replishment at sea. I personally worked on the USS Kalamazoo AOR-6 I know definately know about UNREP. I wonder if these new steath mood ships can UNREP. Now they found out that these fairly new Aegis class ships can not reload their missles Unrep also saves money .By supply the defense class ships with weapons supplies and fue,l yes even Nuclear Aircraft carrier need fuel for thier jet airplanes.

  • Chris H.

    I was on the PreCom crew of USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) and we had an UnRep capability. We also were the east coast test ship for every type of UnRep from Ammo ship or vertical replenishment. We also shock tested the system at Cape Canaveral. Problem arose with the strikedown crane which restricted some operations of canister movement as a result of weight and length of some canisters. Crane operation at sea was dangerous when the canister was vertical and the potential to damage a cell was increased which could potentially take an entire module off line. So many other things to list, however I feel the Navy made the right decision with a significant cost saving when you consider all the eliminated maintenance on the crane and handling equipment.

  • Larry Small

    Having been a GMM on Adams Class destroyers as well as the EMO on the Burke when commissioned I can tell you from experience that the article discussing this is an absolute waste of ink. We are not in a situation of fighting the Japanese Navy with 16 inch or repelling waves of Kamikazes. Look at the enemy, assess what they possess, and then consider your plan. The Aegis ships all have more than enough ammo to carry the battle and any effort or funds taken to even study the rearming at sea issue which was discussed years ago concerning Aegis platforms will take money from a more useful program. Besides, the issue is not just changing the combatant, you have to change everything in the pipeline from the Naval Weapon Station to the pier to the AE or AOE and then the combatant. Also, the statement concerning rearming with FAST in sea state six was obviously from someone with no or little sea time. FAST never did missile transfer faster than six per hour, SAFELY!!

  • FT1 Dixon

    yeah, now let’s figure out a way to reload submarines underway to. Seriously folks, no other country has mastered the art of at sea reloading, obviously we haven’t made it easy or practical enough to do. Oh yeah, and by the way… all you surface guys who worry about those subs tracking you doing replenishments… don’t worry we already have you figured out going whatever speed you want to go.

  • CAPT Nine

    At least for land attack missiles, this issue is resolved by SSGNs; the ultimate “Arsenal Ship” since it includes lots of missiles (up to 154) and can’t be found!

  • ChiefGunner

    The problem is one of safety, not poor planning. I served on a VLS configured Spruance Class DD (as the VLS CPO). Our crane was one of the few that was not in lay up and we used it for pre/post onload/offload work, but it could not lift a Tomahawk canister. In any case, loading a canister begins horizontally. The bottom of the canister is placed in what amounts to a tilting funnel that will align the canister with the cell once the canister is raised vertically. Cables are attached to the top of the canister and the crane raises the canister into a vertical position and it is is slowly lowered through the funnel into the cell of the launcher. On a ship rocking and rolling this would be difficult and unsafe. Additionally, the canisters are designed to have a very snug fit and any misalignment during loading could damage the launcher. Pulling into sea base (if that concept ever gets going) or into a friendly port are the only options.

  • John

    Dose anyone remember tenders?

  • armynavy72

    I completely agree with Vince. There is no need for UNREP of SM’s or other missiles. If the battle-at-hand is so great that the fleet can’t surge to the occasion with ship’s/forces available. UNREP will not solve the issue, just provide enemy an extra target. Better tacitcs and joint operations will supress the need for extra missiles.
    If there is a need for more missiles in theater then just add another cruiser or destroyer. It is just the cost of the new vessel and crew. No re-tooling. Otherwise, work on forward presence, training, and foreign relations to stem any further anti-Freedom progress.

  • John

    lose all but 3 silos and store missiles below deck and load into silos from below as needed

  • Dale

    If it a simple matter of having more “holes” that could ahve been easily “solved” when 52 was designed, the diw is pretty much cast for them now but if for the “next generation cruiser” IE CGX CG-52 is used as a starting point.

    Just a few small changes. I am not sure what you could do withe the FWD cells but the aft missle deck could easlily be re-configured to hold more cells.

    Start with moving the aft 5 inch back far enough to exend the missile deck to accomadate 3 cells bow to stern, that takes you from 4 to 6, Want more? Move GTG# 3 to one of the engine rooms or an AMR, not having the WHB which were remeoved with going “all electric” would allow for that., then eliminate one or both P-ways that lead to the fantail and now you have space enough to go three cells wide port to starboard., now you are at 9 cells vice 4.

    While you are at it perfect once and for all the light weight 8″ and put it on the bow, like it was supposed to be all along.

  • we still do it!!!

    That is why we have a VLS Strikedown Crane. just for this reason. they have been in service since the ’80’s. but now some have been taken off ships… cost to upkeep is in the Milions. and hoses as much money we put in to the system, give out due to the high PSI in the system. It takes alot to maintaine but we still get it done and still have the capabilities. if we have to it gets done. if it is not necessary we dont do it. rough seas and handling missiles is not good for the personel/equipment/missiles. how many of us here are VLS INSTRUCTORS that know our VLS capapbilities?

  • OP375

    Let’s look at reality. We can’t afford to have multiple reloads of missiles just sitting around waiting for the”BIG ONE” . We’ve known about the rearm issue for years. NFESC Port Hueneme had a solution that Marv Miller designed that would work, but it was killed. However, we do have plenty of missiles already carried in the AOE-6 Class that were built to combatant standards, have self defense suites and can run at 26 kts sustained all day long.
    In 1984, we explored using the unrep wires to pass AEGIS firecontrol info to the AOE. Today, CEC would do. The alongside DDG Fire Control would capture a missile fired from the AOE.
    All one needs to do is carry the resupply missiles vertically vs horizontally!
    The AOE-6 Class was designed to be longer and has a parallel mid body to take a plug. That plug would carry multiple launchers worth. plus the resupplys.
    We’ve had a fast arsenal ship that is with the CVBG anyway …for some time. But GOD FORBID a SWO Admiral suggest an UNREP ship might effectively do a combatant’s role………….we’d lose the need for more DDGs, the associated industrial base support, and an aviator would be in command…………….

  • EX AE Ops

    Sooo when we have this all out confrontation, please note that we do not have one ammunition replenishment ship (AE or AOE) in the “active” force—only as civilian manned MSC ships. It won’t make any difference if our gray hulls need refills. Even when we had active AE/AOE assets, they had to transfer their war loads to their replacement at the end of deployment. It was hard enough to transfer nukes and bulk bombs; imagine VLS systems. Nope- the combatants just have to carry all they can and hope they don’t run out.

  • donethatb4

    Has anyone heard of China? Their entire tactic, not unlike the Soviets, is to wear the opponent down through incessant waves of cheap anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM). You fire your $2M SM-2 against 1000s of $40K UAVs or $100k ASCMs all day…you will eventually run out of weapons…even in 60 Aegis ships! You retire to Okinawa to reload…I’ve mined the approaches or have subs waiting. During your 6 days minimum to “re-load” 6-7 Aegis ships escorting only 2 CVBG, I invade Taiwan…you lose. RAS is no better…on Yankee station on an AOR, we once spent 8 hours sending over about 40 SM-2s to a CG. Very vulnerable!!
    P.S. There are many more than 154 Chinese targets for that puny TLAM warhead…a CV and CV replenishment is required….

  • Scott

    Not a fan of Craig Hooper - he over inflates his knowledge of the Navy just because he works at NPS Monterey. Now he’s just reposting someone else’s ideas in the forum to sound “current”. You can re-arm VLS at any friendly port, so I see little utility in this very dangerous operation.

  • DEX… USN

    Str8 up we need out to sea bases composed of old ships…

  • bill gillen

    In the world of military preparations today, the use of these and other weapons systems designed for the outdated ‘Soviet threat’ are little more than a means to fatten the defense hogs at the public trough. The nature of the next war will clearly illustrate that current weapons systems are out-dated and/or obsolete. The United States defense posture should be predicated on the real and developing risks rather than the present cold war model.

  • Boats Mike

    Well,folks looks like it is high time for UNREP capability on these class of ships.The arsenal ship looks good to me and to others.Question is getting the people with UNREP experience to man them.Think you better seriously look into this.Maybe look into retired former Navy folks with UNREP experience to man them and base them out of the Indian Ocean.

  • Semilogical

    If there was still a battle going after missiles were expended the ship would be toast anyway. If you have VLS or regular launch missiles you would have to slow to a creep to do an underway rearming. Both the AE and the fighting ship would be at risk regardless of how they would be rearmed.

    It’s not fun to think about but what you have to consider that in a battle that would require the magazine to be empty the ship would be expendable.

    Unrep with conventional missiles would take a long time to get any ship back into the battle.

  • John

    I am a VLS tech. I have personally taken on birds at sea… i don’t understand the topic of the conversation. We CAN take on birds at sea. We have taken on birds at sea.

  • john

    I was on CSTT as well, and all the scenarios we ran worked out fine with our load out of missiles. and we over compensated for the amount of threats

  • Dutchoscar

    I know that this is a rehash of old news, but wouldn’t it be neat if we had a huge, fast, highly armored vessel that could have it’s current armament removed and replaced with VLS tubes?
    Modular propulsion systems (Gas Turbines); radar systems (Aegis) should be able to be refitted into these ships.
    All of this is highly oversimplified, but has anyone done a cost analysis and comparison of refit of an Battleship/Cruiser vs. modification or new design of VLS capable ships? I think we have looked at these items since we used a battleship during Vietnam for it’s CCC and guns. But I suspect that propulsion and modernization were a show stoppers. However, if we are not intending to crew these ships at anywhere the WWII requirements, modernization takes on a new meaning.
    Final comment: these ships, given some overhaul/replacement of their old 600# steam systems, could be used as VLS “barges” without the need to tow them behind. In a shooting war, I volunteer to be on the “barge”.

  • GM2

    Im sorry but who is gong to design the eqipment to transfer a 7,000 pound missile from one ship to another, after already pulling a square peg from a very tight hole, if t goes through i hope that all vls shps have EOD on board because something bad will probably end up happening

  • Bubblehead

    I worry more about the demise of US vessels that can provide the necessary services for reloading in harbor or pierside. Ignoring the technical issues of open ocean replenishment, we have procedural and safety issues for yellow gear, cranes, and weapons handling teams that aren’t going to be solved through commercial services. CTF 63 looked at this when we shot T-Hawks into Bosnia and the next go-’round in Kosovo had the Sixth Fleet sub tender in Augusta Bay to provide the needed services. That option is now down to two hulls…

  • James

    As a former VLS instructor and retied Navy, believe me when I understand all your point of view but for the 16 years I worked on that system the Navy never planned to really load that baby at sea. We all had to do it for CERT back in the day but it is if not the most dangerous evolution the Navy has next to Flight Ops….

  • Mike

    Retired Navy here that was on ammo handling teams. Includeing VLS, 5 Inch, and TORP. It’s slow dangerous work just doing it peir side. Move on to today, I build these launchers. Pull a module out and replace with a loaded new one? I laughed so hard my side split open. This ain’t no hand gun folks! We’re talking heavy loads of just the canisters. These systems have to be aligned was the missile hits the target. Combine that with seastate? Would YOU handle at sea?
    VLS is a system designed around safety. ANY short cuts are not allowed. PERIOD. These are missiles in cans and are designed to be protected from shipping/handleing/sailor damage and ULTRA safe. With that said, along with the old cranes issue, the best way to reload any VLS launcher is in port. Just my opinion.

  • Spencer GMM2

    Kind of makes you wish we still ha DLG/CG16 type AAW ships.But they were all retired early because the Navy prefered VLS over twin arm launchers. I served aboard USS Leahy DLG16 from 1970 to 1973. We had very little trouble re-loading at sea. Maybe they should talk to some of us old time GMMs and see what they could come up with. We had to improvise a lot when re-loading.

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