Lockheed Martin has been awarded an initial $67 million contract to continue production, delivery and installation of the MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) for the US Navy.
The contract includes production of missile launchers for two Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) Aegis-equipped destroyers, as well as a major upgrade of five other destroyers already equipped with MK 41 VLS.
An additional contract option of $129 million for US Navy and Foreign Military Sales requirements in support of Korea’s KDX-III shipbuilding program could raise the contract’s total value to $196 million.
The MK 41 VLS, a below deck missile launching system developed by the Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems-Marine Systems unit of Lockheed Martin, was originally designed for the Navy’s Aegis-equipped guided missile cruisers to provide air threat protection for naval battle groups. The MK 41 VLS has since evolved into a multi-missile, multi-mission launcher.
‘The MK 41 VLS is 99.6% reliable, and is proven in combat situations,’ said Captain Mick Outten, Program Manager for the MK 41 VLS. ‘Of the 750 MK 41 VLS missile firings in Operation Iraqi Freedom, not a single mission was lost or scrubbed due to the MK 41 VLS.’
The upgraded launchers will feature augmented electronics utilising fibre optic communications, Ethernet switching and PowerPC processor technology.
‘We have understood the need for this launching system to be easily upgradeable, based on an open architecture design, since program inception more than 20 years ago,’ said Dan Heller, MK 41 VLS program director for Lockheed Martin. ‘The only thing that today’s launcher shares in common with the first launcher that entered service in 1983 is the same metal structure. Every other component of the launcher has been enhanced or modified over time.’