Prior to the commissioning of the USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) all missiles, fired from U.S. Navy ships, with the exception of Harpoon and Armor Box Tomahawk, were fired from launchers that moved in train and elevation, just like a gun mount. The launcher was assigned to the fire control system, slewed out, synchronized with the position of the fire control radar, before the missile was launched. Then, General Dynamics came up with the MK 41 Vertical Launching System. (VLS). This system revolutionized the launching of all surface launched missiles. Surface to air, cruise, Anti Submarine Warfare, you name it. VLS was a great idea. No power drives to maintain, no moving launcher, no missile assembly area, no separate missile magazine for stowage. VLS contained everything, even shipping, in a neat, compact, package. We could get more missiles in place for less money, less maintenance, less man power. I liked the idea.
The introduction of VLS happened while I was the Gunner's Mate (Gun) detailer in Washington D.C. That was 1980 to 1983. Let me digress for a moment. There has always been a slight, no, bitter rivalry between Fire Control Technicians, called in the past, FTG, FTM, FT's, now FC's and Gunner's Mates. (I actually helped the Master Chief Fire Control tech in the Bureau design and sell the FC rating.) Fire Controlmen have always seen Gunner's Mates as knuckle dragging gorillas. We were called Boatswain's Mates with a hunting license or a fresh air snipe. Both derogatory terms. We in turn, called the FC's our own endearing terms. Do you know why the Navy invented Fire Control Techs? So Gunner's Mates had someone to dance with at the ship's party! That being said, there was a real battle in D.C. about WHO , that is what rating, was going to own VLS. The FC community was certain since there was plenty of electronics, that they should own it. After all, a Gunner's Mate didn't know anything about electricity or electronics.
In any case, a meeting, to finally determine the out come of this fight was scheduled and I made sure I was there representing my community. Representing the Fire Control community was an out of date, CWO4 Fire Control man who's last ship was a World War two 2250 class destroyer with 5"/38 guns and a MK 37 Fire Control System. He stated the standard case that Gunner's Mates never worked on their own electrical or electronic systems and that the FC's did all of it. I countered, with my back ground on the MK 42 Mod 9 and 10, and MK 45 Gun Mounts, MK 13 Mod 4 and MK 26 Guided Missile Launching Systems, all of which used logic computers to control gun loading and gun laying systems, Hall Effect switches, circuit boards, solid state everything, and all of which was maintained by the Gunner's Mates. The debate got heated, and I may have been a little rough on the old Warrant Officer. It got a little loud as I remember and I remember a certain Captain acting as the referee. Remember my view of Officers and especially, those who quit the enlisted ranks to become Warrants and LDO's. My buddy Jim Smith used to say; " Those who can make E-9, those who CAN'T make Warrant and LDO!" Actually, I have know, worked for, and respected many Warrants and LDO's, but this guy was out of date and out of ammunition in a debate with me. I won! Gunner's Mates got control of VLS, and have it to this day. VLS is an exceptional system, capable of almost anything. It recently shot down a failing space station and saved some city plenty of devastation and misery. I am glad I was in the position I was, to carry the day for the Navy and for Gunner's Mates. I only wish I was there when the Navy gave the maintenance responsibilities for the Close In Weapon's System (CIWS) to the Fire Control community. That system has been poorly maintained from the beginning and continues to be a problem child with a very high cost of ownership.
GD invited me to the "Roll Out "ceremony of the first production VLS launcher. It was an honor to be there, and a great memory of mine.