Country of origin
3.8 - 4.6 m
519 - 628 kg
Range of fire
93 - 280 km
anti-ship missile is probably the most common
weapon of its type in the West. Since it entered production with
McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) in 1975, over 7 000 have been
produced, equipping hundreds of ships around the world at the
relatively cheap price of around $1.5 million. This weapon system is
versatile, capable of also being launched from aircraft, trucks, and
little-known fact about this missile is that it was originally
developed as a weapon against submarines. With its sea skimming
capability it was originally intended to destroy diesel boats
recharging their batteries on the surface. The very project name was
the reference to that mission, as submarines are commonly nicknamed
"whales" in the Navy, and "harpoon" is used as a verb to describe
the act of sinking one.
Why the US
Navy thought it was a valid concept has been lost to history, as
almost all Soviet diesel submarines then in service and all in
development used snorkels to charge their batteries during wartime,
allowing them to remain submerged. In any case, it was re-purposed
into a weapon for use against surface ships soon after the sinking
of Israeli destroyer Eilat by a Soviet
P-15 Termit anti-ship cruise
missile in 1967. That event convinced the US Navy that they needed a
dedicated anti-ship missile, and to save time and money, they simply
re-purposed the Harpoon for that role. The name was retained.
The Harpoon is a subsonic high explosive over-the-horizon sea
skimming anti-ship missile. It tracks its quarry using active radar
and detonates on contact. This missile is fitted with a heavy
221-kilogram penetration blast warhead. Propulsion comes from a
Teledyne CAE J402-400 turbojet delivering 300 kilograms of thrust,
allowing the Harpoon to cruise at about Mach 0.5 (617 km/h).
The Harpoon has gone through several developmental stages
known as Blocks. The initial model is known as Block 1. When it
nears its target, Block 1 Harpoons increase altitude before suddenly
diving on their target. Block 1B removed this feature, while Block
1C made it optional. Block 1D, a model of limited production, had an
increased range and re-attack ability (i.e. the ability to attack
again if it missed the first time). Block 1G is an improved version
of the SLAM-ER under development with re-attack and image comparison
ability. Block 1J is a proposed upgrade to make the Harpoon able to
fire at land and sea targets, eliminating the need for both the SLAM
and standard Harpoon.
The Block 2 is the newest operational model in the Harpoon
line. New features include improved resistance to countermeasures
and better targeting. Expected to enter service in 2017, the Harpoon
Next Generation has an improved range, due to a more fuel-efficient
engine and lighter warhead. It is a contender for the
surface-to-surface armament of the US Navy’s new littoral combat
ships like the
On ships, the Harpoon is normally launched from octuple
The Harpoon first saw combat in 1980 in the Iran-Iraq War.
Since then, it has also been used in US-Libya conflicts of 1986,
1988 US operations in the Persian Gulf, and several accidental
Currently, about 30 nations used the Harpoon, including
Australia, South Korea, Canada, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan,
Egypt, the United States, Taiwan, Germany, Turkey, Israel, India,
Japan, and the United Kingdom.
AGM-84: version for launch from fixed-wing aircraft.
RGM-84: surface launched variant. It is fitted with a
detachable solid-fuel rocket-booster for initial flight. The RGM-84
is longer and heavier than the AGM-84.
UGM-84: model for submarine usage.
It is also referred as Sub-Harpoon. This missile, too, has a rocket
booster and is longer and heavier than the AGM-84. Until it reaches
the surface, the UGM-84 is sealed in a container.
AGM-84E SLAM (Standoff Land Attack Missile): this is an
all-weather air-launched infrared-guided land attack cruise missile
developed from the AGM-84 Harpoon in 1990 with a range of at least
110 kilometers. It is basically a longer, heavier AGM-84 missile
modified with a
Tomahawk missile warhead. This weapon could be
launched from aircraft such as the
F/A-18 Hornet, A-6 Intruder,
S-3 Viking. It has since been replaced by the SLAM-ER.
AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile—Expanded
Response): an improved version of the AGM-84E entering service in
2000. The range is improved to a maximum of 250 km and it has the
best Circular Error Probe (CEP) of missiles in the US Navy.
Article by The Tiger
publish your own articles? Visit our
guidelines for more information.