New Navy Missile Launcher Tested, So Conventional Missiles Work In Submarines
The Navy is developing a new type of missile launcher that would permit using conventional missiles including Army weapons on submarines, instead of having to use missiles specially designed for undersea craft.
It could create new demand for some existing conventional missiles.
Navy scientists and engineers joined the first successful test launch of a test article from a Water Piercing Missile Launcher (WPML).
The test by the Crane (Ind.) Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC Crane) was executed at the Glendora Lake Facility 50 miles from NSWC Crane Sept. 25.
Scientists from NSWC Dahlgren, NSWC Indian Head, Naval Sea Systems Command and Virginia Tech were also involved in the launch.
The WPML is an underwater missile launcher that creates its own path to the water’s surface.
Researchers anticipate this design will save the Navy money, reduce complexity for future submarines and could be used as a backfit on existing submarines.
"Underwater launch is used primarily in offensive strike systems, but also supports special missions operations," said Jerry McKamey, Joint Mission Office Director of NSWC Crane’s Global Deterrence & Defense Department. "NSWC Crane personnel are providing extensive support to those two sets of customers in the strategic missions and special missions focus areas."
In the past, missiles would launch from submarines and make their way to the surface through the water. A missile in the WPML missile launcher works differently, using its own exhaust to create an atmosphere for the missile to enter, almost like its own tunnel to the surface.
According to Jon Yagla of NSWC Dahlgren, designer and patent holder of WPML, "the exhaust gas path provides the missile with a higher ejection velocity and a lower drag as it moves away from the submarine."
He said in the past compressed air, water turbines and propellant gas generating systems have been used to eject missiles from submarines.
"The problem is the subsystems for these approaches are pretty complicated, which adds cost, weight, and noise to the submarine. There are safety issues with the gas generators that have to be addressed."
Yagla added that the WPML concept eliminates all these subsystems, reducing the space needed on submarines and saving the Navy money. The rocket motor provides the energy and the ship and launch control system is greatly simplified.
How the WPML works: the missile is housed within a Concentric Canister Launcher (CCL). This inner cylinder guides the weapon while in the launcher. The missile exhaust moves up between the inner and outer cylinders and pierces the water, creating a path for the missile to egress.
If WPML continues to work, the Navy won’t have to make missiles specifically designed for submarines, but will be able to use existing missiles designed for aircraft or helicopters.
Yagla added that anti-aircraft warfare missiles like Sidewinders "would allow the submarines to spend more time in shallow water supporting special operations missions ashore."
Another missile that can be used is the Army Future Combat Systems Non-Line of Sight, or NLOS, missile. "They are small surface-to-surface missiles that can be fired at distant targets such as tanks, armored personnel carriers and buildings," said Yagla. As with the Sidewinder, this missile would assist Navy Special Operations Forces to obtain fire support from submarines.
"Underwater launch is not a Crane technical capability. What NSWC Crane provides to this is a unique facility with the flexibility to support multiple customers," McKamey said. "In addition NSWC Crane is willing to make it available to our sister activities to support their technical capabilities."
The next generation of strategic submarines is about 13 years away, but with the testing being done on WPML, NSWC Crane and NSWC Dahlgren scientists are leading the way, according to the Navy.
Dec. 6 + STS-122
STS-122 will deliver the Columbus European Laboratory Module and will be the twenty-fourth mission to the International Space Station.
Launch Time: 4:34 p.m. EST
Feb. 5 *GLAST
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Feb. 14 + STS-123
Mission STS-123 on Space Shuttle Endeavour will deliver the pressurized section of the Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module (ELM-PS) on the twenty-fifth mission to the International Space Station.
Launch Time: 11:57 a.m. EST
April 1 *STSS Demo
STSS Demo is a midcourse tracking technology demonstrator and is part of an evolving ballistic missile defense system. STSS is capable of tracking objects after boost phase and provides trajectory information to other sensors and interceptors.
To be launched by NASA for the MDA.
April 17 *STSS ATRR
STSS ATRR serves as a pathfinder for future launch and mission technology for the Missile Defense Agency.
To be launched by NASA for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
April 21 *GOES-O
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April 24 + STS-124
Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-124 will transport the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module – Pressurized Module (JEM-PM) and the Japanese Remote Manipulator System (JEM RMS) to the International Space Station.
Launch Time: 8:26 a.m. EDT
June 15 OSTM/Jason 2
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June 15 IBEX
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June 25 + TacSat-3
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Aug. 7 *STS-125
Space Shuttle Atlantis will fly seven astronauts into space for the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. During the 11-day flight, the crew will repair and improve the observatory’s capabilities through 2013.
Launch Time: 8:24 a.m. EDT
Sept. 18 + STS-126
Mission STS-126 on Space Shuttle Endeavour on assembly flight ULF2, will deliver a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the International Space Station.
Launch Time: 8:08 p.m. EDT
Oct. 31 LRO/LCROSS
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Dec. 1 SDO
The first Space Weather Research Network mission in the Living With a Star (LWS) Program of NASA.
Dec. 15 OCO
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Feb. 16 Kepler
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