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Essentially a new generation of ship-launched short-to-medium rance surface-to-air missile, the RIM-162 ESSM (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile) has a general family resemblance to the RIM-7 Sparrow, which, in turn, derived from the AIM-7 Sparrow, an early beyond visual range air-to-air missile.

The is the only ESSM guided missile remaining in the U.S. Navy is the RIM-162A, four of which fit into each cell of the Mark 41 vertical launch system. B through D models were configured for launchers and radar no longer in active U.S. service. Other models, however, are used in NATO and other allied navies. The ESSM started deployment in 2004.

In a layered U.S. anti-air warfare system, the RIM-156 Standard SM-2 is the long-range weapon, with one per VLS cell, which can engage targets at least 130 nm/240 km away. ESSM, with a range of 27+ nm/50+ km, forms the next band. For final defense, there is the 9 km (5 nm) RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.

General characteristics

  • Primary Function: Surface-to-air radar-guided missile.
  • Contractor: Raytheon Co., General Dynamics, and Hughes Missile Systems.
  • Date Deployed: 1976.
  • Unit Cost: $165,400.
  • Propulsion: Alliant TechSystems (Hercules) MK-58 solid-propellant rocket motor.
  • Length: 12 feet (3.64 meters).
  • Diameter: 8 inches (20.3 cm).
  • Wingspan: 3 feet 4 inches (one meter).
  • Weight: Launch weight is approximately 500 pounds (225 kg)
  • Speed: Classified.
  • Range: Classified; estimates of 27+ nmi/50+ KM
  • Guidance System: Raytheon semi-active on continuous wave or pulsed Doppler radar energy.
  • Navy Surface Platforms: CVs, LHAs, AOEs;
  • Warhead: Annular blast fragmentation warhead, 90 pounds (40.5 kg).