Boeing Harpoon

Boeing Harpoon

Infobox Weapon

caption=A "Harpoon" missile on display at the USS "Bowfin" museum at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
origin= United States
type=Anti-ship missile
manufacturer=Boeing Integrated Defense Systems
service=1977- present
engine=turbojet engine
weight=1,144-1,385 lb (519-628 kg) depending on launch platform
length=15.4 ft (4.7 m)
diameter=1.1 ft (0.34 m)
wingspan=3 ft (0.91 m)
speed=537 mph (864 km/h)(240 m/s)
vehicle_range=58-196 mi (93-315 km) depending on launch platform
filling=487 lb (221 kg)
guidance=Active radar
*RGM-84A surface-launched
*AGM-84A air-launched
*UGM-84A submarine-launched

The Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system, developed and manufactured by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing Integrated Defense Systems). In 2004, Boeing delivered the 7,000th Harpoon unit since the weapon's introduction in 1977. The missile system has also been further developed into a land-strike weapon, the Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM).

The regular Harpoon uses active radar homing, and a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory to improve survivability and lethality. The missile's launch platforms include:
* Fixed-wing aircraft (the AGM-84, without the solid-fueled booster)
* Surface ships (the RGM-84, fitted with a solid-fueled rocket booster that detaches when expended, to allow the missile's main turbojet to maintain flight)
* Submarines (the UGM-84, fitted with a solid-rocket launch booster and encapsulated in a container to enable submerged launch through a torpedo tube);
* Coastal defense batteries, from which it would be fired with a solid-fueled booster.

The missile is comparable to the French-made "Exocet", the Swedish "RBS-15", the Russian "SS-N-25 Switchblade", the British "Sea Eagle" and the Chinese "Yingji".


Early Harpoons

The Harpoon was first introduced in 1977 after the sinking of the Israeli destroyer "Eilat" in 1967 by a Soviet-built Styx anti-ship missile from an Egyptian missile boat. Initially developed as an air-launched missile for the United States Navy P-3 Orion patrol planes, the Harpoon has been adapted for use on Air Force B-52H bombers, which can carry from eight to 12 of the missiles. The Harpoon has been procured by many U.S. Allies, especially by the NATO countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, U.K. etc.

The Harpoon has also been adapted for use on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, in use by the USA, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates. It has been carried by several US Navy aircraft, including the P-3, the A-6 Intruder, the S-3 Viking, and the F/A-18 Hornet.

The Royal Australian Air Force can fire AGM-84 series missiles from its F-111C/G Aardvarks, F/A-18 Hornets, and P-3C Orion aircraft. The Royal Australian Navy deploys the Harpoon on major surface combatants and in the Collins class submarines. The Spanish Air Force and the Chilean Navy are another AGM-84D customer and can fire the missiles from F/A-18, F-16, surface ships, and the P-3 Orion aircraft. The British Royal Navy deploys the Harpoon on several types of surface ship and submarine, and the Royal Air Force uses it on the Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol aircraft.

The Canadian Forces Maritime Command (Canadian Navy) uses Harpoons on its Halifax-Class Patrol frigates. The Royal New Zealand Air Force has the capability of carrying the Harpoon on its five P-3 patrol planes as its only means of striking surface ships.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force also operates 5 modified Fokker-50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) which are fitted with sonars and sensors to fire the Harpoon missile.The Pakistani Navy uses the Harpoon on its naval frigates and P-3C Orions. The Turkish Navy uses Harpoons on surface combatants and Type-209 submarines. The Turkish Air Force will operate the SLAM-ER.

57 Harpoons were reportedly sold to the Republic of China Air Force (Taiwan). The Taiwanese navy also includes four guided-missile destroyers and several guided-missile frigates with the capability of carrying the Harpoon. This is not surprising, since these are either former USN destroyers or identical to U.S.N. frigates - the Oliver Hazard Perry-class.

Harpoon Block ID

This version featured a larger fuel tank and reattack capability, but was not produced in numbers because its intended mission (confrontation with the Soviet Union) was, after 1991, considered unlikely.

LAM ATA (Block IG)

This version, under development, gives the SLAM a reattack capability as well as an image comparison capability similar to the Tomahawk cruise missile; that is, the weapon can compare the target scene in front of it with an image stored in its on-board computer during terminal phase target acquisition and lockon. [Global Security Harpoon article]

Harpoon Block II

In production at Boeing facilities in Saint Charles, Missouri, is the Harpoon Block II, intended to offer an expanded engagement envelope and advanced counter measures together with improved targeting. Specifically, the Harpoon was initially designed as an open-ocean weapon. The Block II missiles continue progress begun with Block IE, and the Block II missile provides the Harpoon with a littoral water attack capability.

The key improvements of the Harpoon Block II are obtained by incorporating the inertial measurement unit from the Joint Direct Attack Munition program, and the software, computer, Global Positioning System (GPS)/inertial navigation system and GPS antenna/receiver from the SLAM Expanded Response (SLAM-ER), an upgrade to the SLAM.

Although initially tested from U.S. Navy ships, the decision was made to not procure Harpoon Block II for the U.S. Navy fleet. Boeing lists 28 foreign navies as Block II customers. (

Harpoon Block III

Currently under development, Harpoon Block III is an upgrade package to existing USN Block 1C missiles and Command Launch Systems (CLS) for guided-missile cruisers, guided-missile destroyers, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet airplane. The Harpoon Block III is scheduled for initial operational capability (IOC) in early 2011. (

With the addition of a robust data-link system and GPS mid-course guidance, Harpoon Block III will provide in-flight target updates, positive terminal control, and connectivity with future network architecture, resulting in more control after the weapon is released. These upgrades will enhance the Block 1C with autonomous, all-weather, over-the-horizon capabilities.

The 500-pound blast warhead delivers lethal firepower for conventional anti-ship missions, such as open-ocean, near-land, or ships in port. The data-link updated Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System improves mid-course guidance to the target area. The accurate navigation solution allows users to discriminate target ships from islands, other nearby land masses, obstructions, or ships.

Operational history

In 1981 and 1982 there were two accidental launches of Harpoon missiles from US and Danish surface ships.

In 1986, the United States Navy sank at least two Libyan patrol boats in the Gulf of Sidra. Two Harpoon missiles were launched from the USS|Yorktown|CG-48|6 with no confirmed results and several others from A-6 Intruder aircraft that were said to have hit their targets. [Time (magazine). [,9171,961035,00.html High-Tech Firepower] . April 7, 1986.] [Ronald Reagan. [ Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate on the Gulf of Sidra Incident] . March 26, 1986.] Initial reports claimed that the "USS Yorktown" scored hits on a patrol boat, but action reports indicated that the target may have been a false one and that no ships were hit by those missiles. [The New York Times. PENTAGON REVISES LIBYAN SHIP TOLL. March 27, 1986.]

In 1988, Harpoon missiles were used to sink the Iranian frigate "Sahand" during Operation Praying Mantis. Another was fired at the Combattante II class missile boat "Joshan", but failed to strike because the FAC had already been mostly sunk by RIM-66 Standard missiles. An Iranian Harpoon was also fired at the destroyer USS|Wainwright|DLG-28|6. The missile was successfully lured away by chaff. [The New York Times. [ U.S. STRIKES 2 IRANIAN OIL RIGS AND HITS 6 WARSHIPS IN BATTLES OVER MINING SEA LANES IN GULF] . April 19, 1988.]

In December 1988, a Harpoon launched by an F/A-18 Hornet airplane from the aircraft carrier USS|Constellation|CV-64|6 [The New York Times / AP. [ U.S. Rocket Hits Indian Ship Accidentally, Killing Crewman] . December 13, 1988.] killed one sailor when it struck the "Jagvivek", a 250 ft long Indian merchant ship, during an exercise at the Pacific Missile Range near Kauai, Hawaii. A Notice to Mariners had been issued warning of the danger, but when the "Jagvivek" strayed into the test range, the unarmed Harpoon, loaded with an inert warhead, locked onto it instead of its intended target.

General characteristics

thumb|300px|right|Harpoon_Block_II_test_firing_from_USS "Thorn".
* Primary function: Air-, surface-, or submarine-launched anti-surface (anti-ship) missile
* Contractor: The McDonnell Douglas Astronautic Corpany - East
* Power plant: Teledyne Teledyne J402 turbojet, convert|660|lb|abbr=on-force (2.9 kN) thrust, and a solid-propellant booster for surface and submarine launches
* Length:
** Air launched: 3.8 m (12 ft 7 in)
** Surface and submarine launched: 4.6 m (15 ft)
* Weight:
** Air launched: 519 kg (1,160 lb)
** Submarine or ship launched from box or canister launcher: 628 kg (1,523 lb)
* Diameter: 340 mm (13.5 in)
* Wing span: 910 mm (3 ft) with booster fins and wings
* Range: Over-the-horizon (approx 50 nautical miles)
** AGM-84D - 220 km (120 nm)
** RGM/UGM-84D - 140 km (75 nm)
** AGM-84E - 93 km (50 nm)
** AGM-84F - 315 km (170 nm)
** AGM-84H/K- 280 km (150 nm)
* Speed: High subsonic, around 850 km/h (460 knots, 240 m/s, or 530 mph)
* Guidance: Sea-skimming cruise monitored by radar altimeter, active radar terminal homing
* Warhead: 221 kg (488 lb), penetration high-explosive blast
* Unit cost: US$720,000
* Date deployed:
** Ship launched (RGM-84A): 1977
** Air launched (AGM-84A): 1979
** Submarine launched (UGM-84A): 1981
** SLAM (AGM-84E): 1990
** SLAM-ER (AGM-84H): 1998 (delivery); 2000 (initial operational capability (IOC))
** SLAM-ER ATA (AGM-84K): 2002 (IOC)


External links

* [ Official Harpoon information] ndash Boeing Integrated Defense System website
* [ Detailed information of all Harpoon versions and upgrades] ndash From Encyclopedia Astronautica
* [ AGM-84 variants]
* [ McDonnell-Douglas AGM-84A Harpoon and AGM-84E SLAM]
* [ FAS Harpoon article]
* [ Global Security Harpoon article]
* [ Boeing Harpoon Block III Press Release]
* [ Boeing Harpoon Block II Backgrounder]

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