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. 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.
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/AN/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.
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.
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.
|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
|Missile Launching System
(1 per 16 cells, not required for Mod 3)
|Electrical Interface Unit
(1 per 4 cells, not required for Mod 3)
(1 per 8 cells, not required for Mod 3)
|ESSM Launching Controller
(1 per 16 cells, ESSM cells)
The successor of Mk 48 VLS, Mark 56 Guided Missile Vertical Launching System (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:
|# of missiles||4||12||32|| launch controller|
(1 per 16 missiles)
|Weight (kg) w/ missiles||3,464||10,200||23,859||-|
| weight (kg) w/
below deck launch controller
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. 
In November 2003, approximately Script error: No such module "convert". 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. 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.
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. 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.
Further live firings were performed by the Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS De Zeven Provinciën in March 2005, again in the Atlantic Ocean approximately Script error: No such module "convert". west of the Azores. 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.
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.
- Raytheon Corporate Communications. "Raytheon ESSM product data sheet". Retrieved 26 October 2014.
- Greenert, Admiral Jonathan (18 September 2013). "Statement Before The House Armed Services Committee On Planning For Sequestration In FY 2014 And Perspectives Of The Military Services On The Strategic Choices And Management Review" (PDF). US House of Representatives. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
- "ESSM completes OPEVAL with 'flying colors'", Seapower, May 2003.
- "Warramunga’s ESSM firing success", Navy News
- "Air Defence Discussion Board - ESSM Question", Strategy Page
- Jane's International Defence Review, February 2004, "Active phased array multifunction radars go live for missile firings"
- Jane's Navy International, October 2005, "Live firing tests rewrite the guiding principles"
- "Stennis First with New ESSM". US Navy. 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2008-10-10..
- ESSM Intercept of High-Diving Threat Proves Expanded Defensive Capability - PRNewswire.com, May 14, 2013
- Designation Systems.net: Raytheon RIM-162 ESSM
- Global Security.org: RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM)
- NATO SEASPARROW Project Office
- NAMMO Raufoss - Nordic Ammunition Company
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