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Phalanx CIWS - Protecting Navy Ships

Automated Weapon System Detects Missiles and Artillery Fire


Phalanx CIWS - Protecting Navy Ships

The Phalanx CIWS weapon system helps protect navy ships from missiles and other dangers.

Used Across the Navy 

The Phalanx CIWS is known as a close-in weapon system and has been developed to counter and protect Navy ships from incoming missiles and artillery fire. The Phalanx system is manufactured by the Raytheon Company of Waltham Massachusettes. It has been developed with a radar guided 20 millimeter Gatling gun.

The Phalanx CIWS is used extensively across the U.S. Navy. The system is currently deployed on every Navy surface combat ship and on all U.S. Coast Guard cutter vessels. The system is also used by the Navy’s of more than 20 allies of the U.S.


The Phalanx CIWS has a unique barrel shape. The shape of the weapon system has led U.S. naval personnel to nickname it "R2D2" after the robot featured in the Star Wars films. The Phalanx CIWS system entered service with the U.S. Navy in 1980.

The weapon system consists of a 20 millimeter Vulcan auto cannon that functions like a Gatling gun. The Phalanx CIWS uses a computer based radar system to automatically search for and detect missiles and artillery fire. The system also fires automatically and can operate independent from a navy ship’s computer system. This allows the Phalanx to continue operating even when a ship has been damaged.

Upgrades and Improvements

The U.S. Navy began upgrading and improving its Phalanx CIWS systems in 2009. The work is to be completed by 2012. Improvements include new computers, enhanced infrared and improved targeting systems. The Phalanx is a heavy piece of military equipment – weighing more than 1,300 pounds when fully loaded with ammunition. Several of the closest allies to the U.S. deploy the Phalanx CIWS on their naval ships including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan and the United Kingdom.

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