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 Mk 41 VLS system, allowing up to four ESSMs to be carried in a single cell.

Class Missile
Type Surface to Air
Manufacturer Raytheon
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 2004
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Canada View
Denmark View
Germany View
Greece View
Japan View
Netherlands View
Spain View
Thailand (Siam) View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
United States of America 2004 View
Norway View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Raytheon 1998 View

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/APAR, and traditional target illumination all-the-way. The improved ESSM Block II will be fielded by the US Navy from 2020.

US operational evaluation was conducted in July 2002 aboard USS Shoup (DDG-86). Initial operational capability did not occur until later.

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 Northrup Grumman 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.

All ESSM launches from De Zeven Provinciën class frigates and Sachsen class frigates involved ESSMs quad-packed in a Mark 41 Vertical Launching System.

The first "kill" by the RIM-162D from a United States Navy carrier's Mk 29 launcher was achieved during a training exercise by the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) on 7 October 2008.

On 14 May 2013, the ESSM intercepted a high-diving supersonic test target, demonstrating the ability to hit high-G maneuvering. No software changes were needed to prove the ESSM's enhanced capability.

Type Medium-range surface-to-air missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service February 2004 aboard USSChafee
Used by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and the US
Production history
Manufacturer Raytheon
Unit cost US$1.447m(FY2014)
Produced September 1998
Number built 2000th missile delivered 2 August 2012
Weight 620 lb (280 kg)
Length 12 ft (3.66 m)
Diameter 10 in (254 mm)
Warhead 86 lb (39 kg) blast-fragmentation
Proximity fuze
Engine Mk 143 Mod 0 solid fuel rocket
27nm+ (50km+)
Speed Mach 4+
Mid-course update datalink
Terminal semi-active radar homing
Mk 41 VLS (RIM-162A/B)
Mk 48 VLS (RIM-162C)
Mk 56 VLS
Mk 29 box launcher (RIM-162D)

End notes