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 Mark 41 Vertical Launch System, allowing up to four ESSMs to be carried in a single cell.
|RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM)|
|Type||Medium-range surface-to-air missile|
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||February 2004 aboard USS Chafee|
|Used by||Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the US|
|No. built||2000th missile delivered 2 August 2012|
|Mass||620 lb (280 kg)|
|Length||12 ft (3.66 m)|
|Diameter||10 in (254 mm)|
|Warhead||86 lb (39 kg) blast-fragmentation|
|Engine||Mk 143 Mod 0 solid fuel rocket|
|Mid-course update datalink|
Terminal semi-active radar homing for Block 1, dual semi-active/active radar homing for Block 2
|Mk 41 VLS (RIM-162A/B)|
Mk 48 VLS (RIM-162C)
Mk 56 VLS
Mk 29 box launcher (RIM-162D)
The original Sea Sparrow was an expedient design intended to provide short-range defensive fire in a system that could be deployed as rapidly as possible. In the years after its introduction, it was upgraded to follow improvements being made in the air-to-air models used by the US Navy and US Air Force. The ultimate version in this line of weapons was the R model, which introduced a new dual-seeker homing system and many other upgrades. However, the AIM-120 AMRAAM offered higher performance from a missile that was smaller and lighter, and development of the Sparrow ended in the 1990s. This left only the Sea Sparrow using the basic platform, and it no longer had to fit on aircraft. So instead of simply using the P and R models as they were, it was decided to dramatically upgrade the weapon. The ESSM emerged as a completely new weapon, common only in name with the original, although using all of the same support equipment allowing it to be fit to ships already mounting the older models. 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/Active Phased Array Radar (APAR), and traditional target illumination all-the-way.
In the 2000’s the NATO Seasparrow Project Office began planning an upgraded Block 2 version of the ESSM. In 2014 Canada pledged 200m CND to underwrite their share of the Block 2’s development cost. ESSM Block 2 leverages the existing Block 1 rocket motor and features a dual-mode X band seeker, increased maneuverability, and other enhancements. Block 2 features enhanced communications systems that allow for mid-course guidance correction, which makes the missiles easily networked into the Navy’s emerging Cooperative Engagement Capability. Unlike Block 1, Block 2's active radar homing seeker will support terminal engagement without the launch ship's target illumination radars. 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.
The Mark 41 Vertical Launching System is the primary launch system for the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. The Mk 41 is deployed aboard destroyers and frigates, primarily of the United States and allied nations. The ESSM is quadpacked within a Mk 41 cell allowing a significantly increased missile load over SM-2.
In addition to the Mk 29 GMLS and Mk 41 VLS, 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 660 kg (1,450 lbs) (with empty canisters), 330 kg (725 lbs) for exhaust system, and 360 kg (800 lbs) 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 the Mk 48 VLS, the Mark 56 Guided Missile Vertical Launching System (Mk 56 GMVLS) or simply Mk 56, is the latest launcher developed for the RIM-162 ESSM. In comparison to its predecessor, the Mk 56 utilizes a greater percentage of composite material, reducing the weight by more than 20%. The Mexican Navy will be one of the customers of the MK 56, using an 8-cell launcher on their Sigma-class design frigates.  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
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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 200 nautical miles (370 km) 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 Northrop 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 180 nautical miles (330 km) 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, low-velocity air threats, as well as surface targets. No software changes were needed to prove the ESSM's enhanced capability.
On 9 October 2016, USS Mason fired one RIM-162 ESSM and two SM-2s to defend against two incoming Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles, potentially Chinese-built C-802 missiles. It is unknown if the RIM-162 was responsible for intercepting either of the missiles, but the incident marked the first time the ESSM was used in a combat situation.
In 2018 the ESSM Block 2 passed its first live fire test, successfully intercepting a BQM-74E target drone using its active guidance seeker-head.
Source: US Navy -- Fact File: Evolved Seasparrow Missile
ESSM Consortium Members:
Foreign Military Sales (FMS):
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