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SM-2 Missile Explodes On Launch From The Destroyer USS The Sullivans

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The USS The Sullivans got more than it expected during a test launch of a SM-2 “Standard” missile today. The DDG-68 ship was sailing off the coast of Virginia performing when the missile was boosted out of the Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer’s Vertical Launch System cell and the SM-2 detonated in spectacular fashion.

Luckily nobody was hurt and damage to ship was minimal, with a small fire breaking out on its stern.


The SM-2 “Standard” missile has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy’s cruiser and destroyer force for decades, mainly being used against air breathing aerial threats, although the RIM-66M/SM-2MR – particularly the dual radar/infrared seeker wielding Block IIIB – can even attack surface targets. Later versions of the SM-2 have a range of over 100 miles.


Here is the official Navy statement:

On July 18 at approximately 9 a.m. (EDT) a Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) test missile exploded after suffering a malfunction as it was fired from the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) during a planned missile exercise off the coast of Virginia. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the port side of the ship resulting from missile debris. The ship returned to Naval Station Norfolk for assessment. An investigation into the malfunction has been ordered and is being conducted by the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, which is part of Naval Sea Systems Command. It is too early to determine what, if any, effect this will have on the ship’s schedule.

If anything, this failed test just goes to show how a modern U.S. Navy surface combatant can take an indirect hit and keep on functioning. As far as the missile goes, these are complex rockets, packed in a sealed coffin for long periods of time and battered by the sea for months at a time. Failures are bound to happen, especially with older stocks. As long as they don’t occur in VLS cell itself, the ship, in most cases, can just launch another and continue to fight.

Here is a close-up of the somewhat violent and fiery affair that is a Standard Missile launch:

And you just can’t beat a mass launch:

Source: USN and USNI

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