The Harpoon anti-ship missile was due to be retired from Royal Navy service in 2018, that is now understood to have changed.

Jane’s reported that senior sources informed them that the missles would remain in service at least until 2020. According to the publication:

“There is work ongoing to look at options for longer extension in service.”

Royal Navy ships were originally to lose anti-ship missile capability in 2018 when the Harpoon missile is withdrawn with a replacement not due until ‘around 2030’.

While the Royal Navy would still have an anti-ship capability via the submarine fleet and embarked helicopters, this will still be a significant capability gap and even then, no Royal Navy helicopters will have anti-ship missile capabilities until 2020.

As we reported last year, Harriett Baldwin and her French counterpart signed an agreement to explore future long range weapons for the Royal and French Navies and Air Forces with the aim of replacing the Harpoon anti-ship missile and the Storm Shadow cruise missile as well as an array of French weapon types.

French arms procurement chief Collet-Billon said last year at the meeting:

“We are launching today a major new phase in our bilateral cooperation, by planning together a generation of missiles, successor to the Harpoon, SCALP and Storm Shadow.

The FC/ASW (future cruise/anti-ship weapon) programme’s aim is to have by around 2030 a new generation of missiles.”

The missiles however will not be ready to replace Harpoon until 2030, leaving the Type 26 Frigates without any real means to engage surface warships aside from their helicopters.

63 COMMENTS

  1. It’s good their keeping the them in service a bit longer, but it’s still ridiculous that we will be 10 years without an on-board anti ship missile, and if they think helicopters (which take a while to get armed & airborne) are enough, then they (Government) are not fit to decide on our countries defence. I just hope our sailors don’t have to face a real naval threat until 2030 (or let’s be honest 2034 or some time later because someone will not be happy about something or other in government and want’s to cut costs again).

  2. At least, with the Type 23s being converted to operate an open architecture computer system, they should be able to plug and play any compatible missile on the market.

  3. The Type 26 is going to have strike length VLS so not sure why we can’t just buy a number of possible missiles until Perseus comes around 2030.

    I wonder if that’s what she means when she says “exploring a number of options”

    I’m also struggling with the dates here perhaps I have missed something, The steel has been cut for the first Type 26 but on the NSS first delivery will be 2026 it says, 9 years away? That has to be a mistake.

  4. Its farcical that we are in this position and people should be sacked.

    I still don’t understand why the RN is getting rid of its torpedo tubes as well – as surely these are one of the most inexpensive systems available. I agree with Will that helicopters are not the answer to everything and the ships themselves need to be far more capable.

    The RN needs to make all their vessels far more capable from an attack point of view as in reality I do not believe they could win a firefight against a near peer asset. That includes a simple vessel with a shed load of containerised missiles.

    Its a big worry for me – as a force I think we are incapable of sinking a sub or large (40m+) surface vessel.

    • No submariner worth his salt would get close enough to a target to let it launch a lightweight torpedo. That is why the main anti-submarine weapons on frigates and destroyers are helicopter launched torpedoes. The Mk 41 launcher fit on Type 26 will give MoD the opportunity to fit VL-ASROC, but I doubt they will spend the money.

      • And on the other side, if you’re frigate is within range to hit the sub with ship launched torpedoes you’re already in a pretty terrible position.

    • Hardly inexpensive.
      MTLS (T23 System) has 4 tubes in the magazine. They need the computer control system that talks to the torpedoes, sonar and command system. Tube local control panels, HP air system for the discharge system. The handling system to get the torpedoes out of the magazine stowage into the tubes, the fittings that go on the torpedo in the tube ( Includes a parachute drogue), the torpedo its self, spares, maintainers,training for the loading crew.
      It all adds up.
      And as said, if you ever need to fire it its probably already to late!

    • What if the vessels become subject to attack in very bad weather, where a helicopter cannot be deployed or a submarine is unavailable at the same time.? The notion that other platforms can protect a frigate is a nonsense, it must have its own independent system. If the RN were to find themselves engaged in a hostile naval exchange, and the enemy is aware of the frigate’s lack of anti-ship missile, then we could be facing a Falkland level of exposure?

  5. On the face of it good news but even the navy admit the missiles are redundent and can be easily countered by modern air defences. I think there comment was better than nothing, which i guess remains true.

  6. It’s one thing to plan to have a gap after careful consideration, but in this case we just seem to have drifted into it because no one would make a decision. That’s just a bit rubbish.

    • You’re absolutely right that it almost seems like the navy having the means to conduct naval warfare was something everyone kind of forgot about, its really concerning.

  7. I have been trying to get this message across now for a week or more, firstly that Harpoon could have a temporary reprieve but mainly to say that discussions are already taking place with a view to a “filler” system. The Standard Mk 6, able to be launched from Mk41 silo,s is front runner.

  8. Type 23’s, entering service from 2023 and retro fit to 45’s. Apart from that you have to rely on the navy who obviously believe it to be feasible.

    • I can see the Type 45 argument; Mk41 would give BMD and AShM with the same missile. Would need to motor though to avoid a capability gap. Ditto for Type 26. Type 31 will have to make do with Sea Venom.

      • As I understand it ,Paul, MBDA are working up a ship launched version as well as the helicopter version. It would certainly boost the fire power of a Type 31.

        • Interesting. Would certainly be more reassuring to be able to fire an AShM without needing to launch your helo. Still a huge difference in hitting power through. Sea Venom warhead 30kg approx, Harpoon 220kg ( wiki). That said I imagine a salvo of Sea Venom would be harder to decoy and/or intercept.

  9. Sorry to hear it is such a worry for you Pacman. It must be truly awful. Most people have such minor concerns like paying their mortgages or rents and keeping the car on the road. By the way, which country’s submarines were you thinking of sinking?

    • And who do we rely on to make sure we have a house to pay for or roads to drive on? One of the largest submarine fleets I believe is North Korea who we may not consider a threat now but people thought that a few years ago they would not have a nuclear missile to hit Japan/Guam with. Not taking them seriously has paid off now hasn’t it?
      Thank god that people like you are in a minority in this country who believe that governments first role should not be the security of its citizens but instead should provide a house and a car for every citizen for free so that they do not have those worries and completely ignore defence and security of those same people as this is just pie in the sky thinking and things like North Korea’s nuclear program, Russia in Ukraine, Parsons Green, Manchester arena and the London attacks do not count to people who have a mortgage or car to worry about. The lack of anti-ship missiles means that a) most peer navies are added to the threat list alongside various terrorist groups. b) we have less clout on the world stage to solve issues peacefully. You are incredibly boring on a site where real debate occurs between people who are actually interested in the articles they are reading so please take your “just for a row” posts to somewhere that they may appeal to at least some of the readers

    • Do you understand the concept of deterence? When the uk cut its military strength relying on the good will of its rivals to do the same we got world war 1 and 2. Cut our aircraft carriers and we got the falklands war, the us left al-qaeda unchecked and got the war on terror. Pascifism and under equiping your military removes any deterence for countries like china and russia to do whey like in the ukraine and sout china sea.

  10. Trolling again TH? Britain has been engaged in at least five major conflicts during my lifetime. None of them could have been easily predicted. It seems rather high-handed of you to suggest that we should abandon reasonable defences in favor of more focus on mortgages and car payments. I could understand your thinking if the World had experienced widespread pacifism of late. Surely you would acknowledge that’s not the case? Are you watching Russia, China, Iran and N.Korea? Should we not be prepared to contribute to efforts in Syria and Afghanistan? How about deterring aggression in the Baltic states or peacekeeping in Bosnia? Previously, you might remember our maintenance of no-fly zones to protect the Kurds. Would Argentina have given up military options to regain the Falklands if we had not reinforced the islands? I’m not sure if you’re a pacifist or just choosing to be willfully ignorant of obvious reality for the rise it gives you as a troll.

      • Don’t think he believes any of the things he spouts off about he is just looking for a reply to make his day worthwhile. We have given him that for free so I suppose that is socialism in action

      • And what have these wars achieved other than costing me a fortune in taxes? Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Peace in Afghanistan?

        • They have achieved a lot of dead damned terrorists. You are under the mistaken impression your guard can ever be lowered.
          And on your mortgage payments get a real job or do some overtime. Buy a car within your means.

  11. For me the choice is clear keep the harpoons in service in the short term whilst we procure a new heavyweight anti ship missile within 5 years.

    Options are NSM or LRASM.

    Paper projects with some distant in service date don’t really cut the mustard

      • Cut it out fellas He may be annoying and he may be wrong but he doesn’t deserve these comments. This is a defence site.

        • I have paid my mortgage off, I own my new car outright and my wife isn’t sterile.
          I fail to see why all this money wasted on vanity projects is aiding security in this country.
          It has done nothing to prevent the latest bombing in the London underground.

        • @GJRr absolutely. I disagree with TH’s fundamental opposition to defence spending, but throwing insults demeans this forum and those speakers making these comments, not him.

          As for TH’s line about ‘vanity projects’, given the capabilty gaps we are talking about here – this is valid point. Either RN ships are capable or fighting – or they are just very expensive vanity projects. If we have them I want them to be able to go into harm’s way if they have to.
          best Tim62

  12. ‘However I also worry that TH and people like him are allowed to vote and breed’

    I dusagree with him completely but’s way OTT.

  13. If we’re are working with the French surely adopting an upgraded Exocet mm40 would be a sensible interim option until Perseus or similar arrives or surely the us navy has the same issue I am sure they will have a replacement

  14. And what have these wars and money frittered on defence achieved other than costing me a fortune in taxes? Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Peace in Afghanistan? Chaos in Libya? Prevented terrorism on the streets and in the cities of Britain?

  15. I had thought our Harpoon’s were nearing there “expiry dates” and this was why they were being retired. Was I wrong on this or are they intending to refurbish them?

    • The harpoons are old and no longer effective, they are also coming to the end of their service life, which is why they were been removed. But since we do not have a replacement, we are going with the anything is better than nothing approach.

  16. What are the yanks doing to replace harpoon? Can we mot buy a few of that until 2030?

    Otherwise the RN it seems could not defeat a squad of sea cadets in a dinghy beyond machine gun range!!!

  17. An amalgam of two other posts I have made but relevant I believe none the less .

    The devil will be in the detail.
    If they extend GWS 60 Harpoon it may be that the number of missiles at sea drops due to the LIFEX of components. So whilst they keep the system it may be that fewer ships actually sail around with missiles onboard or with a full outfit in place. This happened with Exocet many years ago…less and less ( Filled) canisters fitted to ships as its components expired past the sell by date.

    As to upgrades… I wish people would just look at and understand the practicalities of “buy off the shelf”
    You cannot buy off the shelf, bolt it on and sail around happy as Larry any more. As I have said previously , since Haddon Cave the risk management and safety cases for new equipment, let alone a munition, are huge and labyrinthine. Its a pain in the arse to be true but it needs to be done.
    A Nimrod had stuff added onto it with no thought for its interaction with other equipment or an understanding of the risks associated with fitting the equipment.
    14 people died.
    A warship carries 180+ people so you really don’t want all the holes in the risk management wedge of cheese to suddenly line up do you?

    If you buy new missiles you would need and this is by no means an extensive list,
    New ship board equipment- Control Consoles, interface units to the Ships Command systems.
    Power Conversion machinery,- Exocet and Harpoon both have lots of “special” voltages , power and frequency requirements that a ship would not normally have due to being an aircraft compatible missile .
    Plans for the upgrade to equipment onboard and when to do it in a maintenance period.
    Deck welding for new mounting foundations and what equipment that effects below and adjacent to where you are welding.
    New Cable runs from the OPS control panel and equipment rooms to the missile launch positions which usually means new bulkhead penetrations, new gas and water tight cable glands, remove and blank the old glands all through at least 2 decks, 3 bulkheads and numerous compartments.
    New Missiles- Ammo Depot handling, support and maintenance equipment.
    Train the Depot Munitions maintainers in maintaining it.
    Missile Safety Case- Is it IM? If not then you need to know its reaction to a fuel fire , fragmentation damage terrorist attack.
    Electromagnetic Compatibility.
    Launch motor blast effects on a ships structure and equipment.
    Maintainers and operators- Retrain the maintainers on the new kit and the operators on using it. When do you do that ? The RN are short of people anyway and carrying Gaps in manpower at sea so its difficult to send the Harpoon maintainer who also looks after Gyros, Navaids etc and probably is the back up maintainer for another sections equipment on a 8 week course to learn about the new kit.
    Whole ship issues such as the hazards it represents ( Fuel spills , leaks, hang fires etc).
    New books and documentation.
    Spares support.

    So yes lets just buy it now and bolt it on…its easy…

    2 Years is nothing. It means that the bad headlines can now be deferred until later . Harpoon still needs to go and a replacement to be bought…what that will be is anyone’s guess but once Wildcat / Sea Venom comes in I thing that Harpoon will die a quiet (er) death.

    • Luckily all that integration work is done and the Navy for a modest sum can upgrade their Harpoons to the latest and best version.

      No muss…. no fuss.

      • I take it you have no experience of onboard weapon systems and getting them to work onboard ships…so no the integration is not done.
        That’s the point I made above.
        It takes a long time and costs a lot more than the cost of an actual missile.
        It is not like the Army going down the UOR route to buy Mine Protected vehicles. They where stand alone and didn’t integrate with anything. Warships are a collection of systems that interface with each other. Get it wrong and other systems are affected and affected badly.

        New electronics may take more power…is that factored in on the ships switchboards? New Breakers? Upgrading power cables?
        Wild heat from the electronics needs to be accounted for…Is the Air Conditioning system or the Chilled water cooling for electronics able to handle it? Is there spare capacity? if not will other systems start to run hot.
        Are additional firefighting sprays required on the launcher. If so that’s new pipework and more potential load on the ships saltwater system.
        Its not a matter of buying individual items its a systems engineering issue and how that affects everything onboard.

  18. Really good post about difficulties of buying a new off the shelf missile system Gunbuster. Thanks, helpful to see the extent of integration problems even for an off the shelf missile.
    I think by deferring the decision to retire until 2020 we will see a gradual reduction in harpoon availability and therefore numbers of missiles at sea.
    could we get a large number of type 1Bs (the same as the Aussies have) as an interim. These weapons have a land attack capability and a longer range?
    All deferring the decision to retire has done hopefully is lit a torch under HMGs arse to find a replacement or interim solution to the requirement to sink enemy major surface combatants without needing a submarine present. NSM or LRASM both viable options until Perseus comes along, no doubt late, no doubt very over budget, no doubt not as capable as it was intended to be….sometime after 2030.
    That is at least a 10 year capability gap.
    If we ordered in more F35Bs (so we have more than 24 in active service) and had a new LPH we could say anti ship attack was down to air strike by F35s using storm shadow or paveway 4s (lob bombing needed from 3-5 miles away to avoid CIWS risk to aircraft) until Perseus ready.
    Although I am failing to see the point in all this issue if type 26 is going to have mk41 vl system then HMG need to select a missile fit for these launchers soon
    Tomahawk, Asroc, NSM or LRASM all would be good fits and a suitable multi mission fit.
    We will need an interim solution to equip type 31s and type 45s regardless of what the type 26 will be “fitted for but not with”

    • Why is it OK with you leftist morons that every other nation bar the UK can have a military but not us?
      The UK has a certain world standing as all nations aspire to. G8 member. P5 member. NATO member. One of the worlds richest nations with cultural, political, military, historical links world wide going back centuries. Pains people like you doesn’t it?
      If other nations around the world have this sort of stuff why not the UK? What would you have our sailors do if their ship was ever attacked by another vessel, surrender?
      Every nation has a right to fight back if it becomes necessary and the UK becoming a laughing stock by having patrol vessels only and no military capability, while others still do, may be heaven to the likes of you, but is not very sensible. It’s actually treasonous in my view.
      Bullies would love your sort, they really would.

      • Because a good number of the people slating the UK are leftist …….. and other things as well, or they could be ex admirals, but then one or two of them are ……..as well!

      • ‘Why is it OK with you leftist morons that every other nation bar the UK can have a military but not us?’

        Not all of us on the left are anti-military – certainly not me. I’m disgusted with the present government and its immediate predecessor for the huge, damaging cuts in both manpower & equipment over the last 7 years.

      • I am not left wing, have never voted Labour or Liberal Democrat nd am not a moron. I have paid my mortgage off, have a new car which I bought outright and my wife is not sterile. Right, that deals with what has been said against me by posters here.

        Now, whose ships and submarines is Britain about to sink and just how do the Irish manage?

      • Daniele what makes you think he is “leftist” he is anything but if you’re a regular reader of this site.

        Stop thinking the defence of this country solely belongs to your political persuasion because it doesn’t.

        • @KieranC indeed, petty party point-scoring is irrelevant to this forum. And the notion that only those on the right of the political spectrum believe in defence spending is factual nonsense. As it happens, in the post-war period, defence spending peaked under Labour after the outbreak of the Korean war…
          best Tim62

    • I am not left wing, have never voted Labour or Liberal Democrat nd am not a moron. I have paid my mortgage off, have a new car which I bought outright and my wife is not sterile. I am not Russian. Right, that deals with what has been said against me by posters here.

      Now, whose ships and submarines is Britain about to sink and just how do the Irish manage?

      • The population of neutral Ireland is 4.6 million and they have a balance of trade surplus to which agriculture is a major contributor. The UK has a large trade deficit amd cannot feed herself. Battle of the Atlantic ring any bells?
        The UK imports 30% of its natural gas from Qatar drawn largely from a has field shared with Iran whose navy is here.
        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_ships_of_the_Islamic_Republic_of_Iran_Navy
        Not to mention sundry Somali pirates. We are not basing mother ships, mine sweepers, frigates and future aircraft carriers in the Gulf for the fun of it. Rather to protect our economy and health of the people of the UK.

        • I am well aware of what happened in the Second World War and the Atlantic Convoys.

          Of course, such a thing will never happen again. Instead of wasting huge sums of taxpayers’ money on the maintenance of a blue water navy, better home defences are needed.

          Britain’s role as an imperial policeman ended in 1997 with Hong Kong being returned. This country is a medium (and very broke) European country.

          The main threat to our security is from within.

          As such, I continue to call for a fleet of inshore patrol craft and a reduction in expeditionary waste.

          This is what I tell the MPs every time I write them.

          Note:

          I am not left wing, have never voted Labour or Liberal Democrat nd am not a moron. I have paid my mortgage off, have a new car which I bought outright and my wife is not sterile. I am not Russian.

  19. I think it’s neccessary for the warning comments from various ex-RN people, but it’s such an obvious gap in capability, that it will just as obviously be filled with a short-term, and even medium term capability. One problem is that while there are plenty of helicopters, there’s not so many SSNs, and they really are stretched to fulfill all roles needed for them. So yes, there needs to be ship to ship capability, without any gap at all. Even if not the best – and even if that costs more than it should if a sensible long-term option was currently available, like the NSM / JSM.

    As far as TH’s comments are concerned, personally I welcome them while not agreeing with them. If, for instance, there wasn’t a sensible reply or rebuttal to be made, apart from wishing his wife to be sterile, then perhaps he has a point. Such is the nature of debate. Budget is always debatable, if for instance the UK had a defence budget of 5% of GDP – what could be done with that? Or if it was cut to 1%, could a satisfactory defence force, as part of a shelter organisation like NATO, do the job? And ultimately, the question so rarely asked, what is the UK’s role, globally?

    Those are political questions, it’s up to “defence” to its best within whatever constraints the politicians throw at it. That’s democracy in a nutshell – nuts and all!

  20. Once again the stupidity of the MOD was revealed when they announced the Phase out of Harpoon earlier now renounced.
    Again with the aquisition of the F35 the final delivery will be in I believe in 2030 or somesuch,
    Astounding complacency but regretably no surprise

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  22. Its a shame that government think more about foreign aid than defence.
    we have a fundamental right for our government to defend us .
    This isn’t happening , as for Fallen the man is a Joke , Knighted for god knows what service to the nation , for a good defence minister would ensure we had defence capability.
    We give away 3 carriers and 12 type 45 each and every year or 10 astute.
    Over the lifetime of two successive tory governments 120 billion plus in aid to other countries whilst cutting our forces to the bone its a national disgrace .
    its a joke , a national disgrace .
    Michael Fallon has no shame and too big an expense account

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