So if, over the next two years, the 7,804 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells in the surface fleet suddenly acquired a Prompt Global Strike capability? It’s gonna happen.

As I wrote over at

Putting PGS into the VLS does something far more interesting than just “add capability”. It changes everything. PGS on a surface ship transforms the largely “defensive” nature of the U.S. surface combatant/carrier escort to, well, “offense”.

And that shift from the “Missile Defense” destroyer or “Air Defense” cruiser of old to a “Global Strike Combatant” will pose a real conceptual challenge for everybody–from those walking Aegis deckplates to any potential adversaries.

The idea that America’s 7,804 VLS cells may soon gain the ability to rain almost instant havoc on targets some 2,000 nm away should put a bit of a damper on those who counted on overwhelming a hunkered-down and relatively passive “defense-oriented” AEGIS fleet. It’s a big deal.

You heard it here first–A shift of the U.S. surface combatant fleet from defense to offense is a real game changer.



Posted by Defense Springboard in Air Force, Foreign Policy, Navy
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  • Derrick

    How much would it cost per ship to add the PGS capability into the VLS?

    Would such an equipped ship then require to carry less defensive AEGIS-type missiles in order to make room for offensive missiles? Or can the missiles be used interchangeably? What I am wondering is whether the same type of missile meant to shoot down an anti-ship ballistic missile can be used to attack an enemy ship?

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    Will it just be a faster-longer range version of the TLAM, or is there hope to be able to hit ships with this, as well?

  • yep I agree with the YN2.

    this isn’t a game changer, its just an attempt to regain a capability that is beginning to wither. as was said earlier, this is just a next gen tomahawk…faster, but with less throw wt but capable of penetrating advanced defenses….

    just like the tomahawk was able to do decades ago.

  • Marcase

    You want a game changer? Enlarge the Mk.41 VLS and jam in a US variant of the Dong Feng DF-21 ASBM…

    Yes, it’s ridiculously large for a ship, but a shortened D-5 jam-packed with conventional JDAMs/Blu-108s/SDBs will surely be the ultimate global prompt strike weapon, especially when fitted on Ohio SSGNs.

    Seriously, if that short-range supersonic training missile (forgot the name, it emulates the Brahmos/Sunburn) could be matured into a real long-range weapon, the gap could be closed that has been growing due to overreliance on both Harpoon SLAM and T-LAMs, which are just not able to defeat todays time-sensitive and mobile targets.


    The other questions are how expensive will they be and how many are we going to buy? If they are cheap and you buy them in the 1000s, then they could be a game changer, although really just Tomahawk for the 21st century. If they are expensive like SM-3 and we only buy a few, then they will merely be interesting. But a 2000nm range really opens up the battle space.

  • Derrick

    How many surface combatants would require such weapons? Would only ships without the support of a carrier require them?

  • KhakiPants



    If we outfit every single surface combatant with these, and we have the fire control necessary to launch them in droves, not just piecemeal, then it will go far to bolster our unfortunately weakening command and control of the sea.

    If it’s the jeune l’ecole’s new toy that creates an initial buzz, but isn’t really deployable in practice because of high cost, launch difficulty, safety, etc, then it merely becomes a novelty without real value.

  • SwitchBlade

    PGS is a conventional ICBM.

    1. It won’t and never will fit into a MK41 VLS cell so the subject is really mute.

    2. Right now there isn’t the capability to come even close to a 2000 NM range with a missile launched from a VLS cell without it going into orbit first. I doubt that will happen.

    3. If you added up the total number of Standard and Tomahawk missiles in the inventory it won’t equal the number of VLS cells on ships. The inventory of missiles equaled or exceeded the “holes” in the ships since well before I joined the navy in 1973 – if it every did! So the PGM inventory being asked about isn’t realistic.

    4. No, PGMs can’t be used for AAW or ASUW. While a couple of these imaginary missiles on each VLS capable ship would be an asset – having them on SSBNs is just as useful – and more realistic since they already have cells for them.

  • SwitchBlade


    The inventory of missiles hasn’t equaled or exceeded the “holes” in the ships since well before I joined the navy in 1973…


    Interesting… I read up briefly on the missile. Could be quite the weapon. However, VLS has certain parameters in size. When SM3 was morphed many eons ago from the LEAP missile, it was huge. Too big in fact to fit in VLS. When I was involved in the program as a young VLS gunner, we tested it on RK Turner, and used Aegis as the radar platform. Pretty cool back then! This program could possible morph (like that word today) into something similar to SM3 that would work, but to get the range desired, it probably won’t fit. I’d assume from the little I have read about it, there will be variants. One variant could be a shorter range, say 500+ miles or so, then it may fit. Issue will be booster size and/or fuel. THawk gets its endurance from a turbo-fan style engine. PGS would be solid propellant, similar to SM3. Bottom line: Won’t be able to get the range desired if it fits in VLS. Good theory and initiative though. Mahan would be happy. 🙂

  • Bill

    Hey I have an idea.

    How about we take the money and FIRST make sure those 7804 VLS cells are properly maintained and manned. Otherwise, you’re putting all-new high-efficiency appliances in a house with a cracking and eroding foundation.

  • Michael Antoniewicz II

    You’ll all note that a rather concrete constraint in the ref’d BAA is that it has to fit within a Mk. 41 VLS cell *AND* use a Mk. 71 1st stage to clear the ship.

    The whole idea here is to get around that 12 foot tall speed bump of using ICBM’s that EVERYONE (including us) around the World views the launch of (other then announced tests) as a Nuclear Strike and reacts as such.