Depiction of an arsenal ship launching a missile
1995 depiction of an arsenal ship

An arsenal ship is a concept for a floating missile platform intended to have as many as four hundred vertical launch bays for large-sized missiles, most likely cruise missiles. In current U.S. naval thinking, such a ship would initially be controlled manually by an Aegis Cruiser, although plans that have long since been scrapped included control by AEW&C aircraft such as the E-2 Hawkeye and E-3 Sentry.


Originally proposed by VADM Joseph Metcalf, DCNO Surface Warfare, as a component of the "Surface Combatants of the 21st Century" initiative in the mid-1980's. Later, proposed by the U.S. Navy in 1996, the arsenal ship had funding problems, with the United States Congress canceling some funding, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) providing some funding to individual contractors for prototypes. Some concept artwork of the Arsenal Ship was produced, with some images bearing the number "72", possibly hinting at an intent to classify the arsenal ships as a battleship, since the last battleship ordered (but never built) was USS Louisiana (BB-71).[citation needed]

The arsenal ship would have a small crew and as many as 500 vertical launch tubes for missiles to provide ship-to-shore bombardment for invading troops. The Navy calculated a $450 million price for the arsenal ship, but Congress scrapped funding for the project in 1998.[1]

The U.S. Navy has since modified the four oldest Ohio-class Trident submarines to SSGN configuration, allowing them to carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles using vertical launching systems installed in the tubes which previously held strategic ballistic missiles, creating a vessel roughly equivalent to the arsenal ship concept.[2]

In 2013, Huntington Ingalls Industries revived the idea when it proposed a Flight II version of the LPD-17 hull with a variant carrying up to 288 VLS cells for the ballistic missile defense and precision strike missions.[3][4]

China has conducted studies and tested models of partially and completely submersible arsenal ship concepts.[5] South Korea is also planning to deploy three arsenal ships by the late 2020s.[6][7]

See also


This article includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (May 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
  1. ^ 'Micro' Drones, 'Arsenal' Plane, Railguns Funded in New Defense Budget -, 2 February 2016
  2. ^ "Guided Missile Submarines – SSGN". U.S. Navy. 10 November 2011. Archived from the original on 27 February 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  3. ^ Katz, Daniel (11 April 2014). "Introducing the Ballistic Missile Defense Ship". Aviation Week. Archived from the original on 2 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  4. ^ Cavas, Christopher P. (8 April 2013). "HII Shows Off New BMD Ship Concept at Sea-Air-Space (Updated with video!)". Defense Daily. Archived from the original on 17 September 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  5. ^ Lin, Jeffrey; Singer, P.W. (1 June 2017). "China is developing a warship of naval theorists' dreams". Popular Science.
  6. ^ Episkopos, Mark (19 December 2021). "South Korea Dreams of Aircraft Carriers Armed With Stealth Fighters". Retrieved 20 June 2022. Also in the works is a 5,000-ton 'Arsenal Ship'-- a mobile missile platform, derived from South Korea's existing KDX-II destroyer design, capable of saturated cruise missile strikes against land and surface targets.
  7. ^ Lee, Daehan (16 December 2021). "Latest Details On South Korea's Arsenal Ship Project". Retrieved 20 June 2022. [South] Korean military plans to deploy three 5,000 tons arsenal ships by the late 2020s, equipped with over 80 land attack cruise missiles to strike land-based targets as a 'sailing missile base'.

General references

  • Holzer, Robert. "Commanders May Share Arsenal Ship Assets." Defense News, (17–23 June 1996)" 10.
  • Holzer, Robert with Pat Cooper. "Warships May Use Leaner Crews: Report Recommends Additional Firepower for U.S. Navy Vessels." Defense News, (29 January – 4 February 1996): 4.
  • Holzer, Robert. "U.S. Navy Eyes Options as Arsenal Ship Takes Shape." Defense News, (5–11 February 1996): 20.
  • Holzer, Robert. "U.S. Navy's New Arsenal Ship Takes shape." Defense News, (8–14 April 1996): 4.
  • Lok, Joris Janssen. "Arsenal Ship Will Pilot Future USN Combatants." Janes Defense Weekly, 17 April 1996: 3.
  • Metcalf, Joseph III. "Revolutions at Sea." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, 114, no. 1019 (January 1988): 34–39.
  • Pickell, Greg. "Arsenal Ship fails to Hit the Mark," Defense News, (16 October 1995 – 22 October 1995): 55.
  • Scott, Richard, ed. "Arsenal Ship Programme Launched." Jane's Navy International, 101, no. 7 (1 September 1996): 5.
  • Smith, Edward A. "Naval Firepower for the 21st Century." The Washington Post, 27 July 1996.
  • Stearman, William L. "The Navy Proposes Arsenal Ship." The Retired Officer Magazine, 102, no. 11 (November 1996): 39.
  • Stearman, William L. "A Misguided Missile Ship: Old Battleships Would Do a Better Job Than a Pricey New Boat," The Washington Post, (7 July 1996): C03.
  • Stearman, William L. "The American Scud." Navy News & Undersea Technology, 12, no. 41 (23 October 1995).
  • Truver, Scott C. "Floating Arsenal to be 21st Century Battleship." International Defense Review, 29, no. 7 (1 July 1996): 44.
  • U.S. Department of Defense. Arsenal Ship...21st Century Battleship. Brief prepared by OPNAV (N86). Washington, D.C.: 23 May 1996.
  • U.S. Department of Defense. Arsenal Ship Program. Joint memorandum signed by Larry Lynn, John W. Douglass and J.M. Boorda. Washington, D.C.: 18 March 1996.
  • U.S. Department of Defense. Promulgation of The Arsenal Ship Concept of Operations. Memorandum for Distribution by Daniel J. Murphy. Washington, D.C.: 11 April 1996.
  • U.S. Department of Defense. The Arsenal Ship. Brief prepared by OPNAV (N86). Washington, D.C.: 29 August 1996.