A Government minister has indicated that options for replacing the Harpoon anti-ship missile are ‘being considered’.

Harriett Baldwin, Under Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, said in response to a question in Parliament:

“The Harpoon system currently carried by the Royal Navy will reach its out of service date in 2018.

As part of a process of continuously reviewing the capabilities required to deliver their tasking, the Royal Navy is working alongside other areas of the Ministry of Defence to consider options for a Harpoon replacement.

I am withholding further detail as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces.”

The minister added later:

“The Royal Navy is, of course, continuously assessing the capabilities it requires, and work is ongoing across the Department to consider the options for the Harpoon replacement.”

The Royal Navy is to lose its anti-ship missile capability in 2018 when the Harpoon missile is withdrawn.

While the fleet will still have an anti-ship capability via the submarine fleet and embarked helicopters, this will still be a significant capability gap. Harpoon missiles are unlikely to be replaced for up to a decade.

Many however have described Harpoon as totally inadequate for anti-surface warfare in today’s environment, many however also argue that it’s a useful capability and in the words of a Royal Navy officer we spoke to “better than nothing”.

According to the Telegraph, Rear-Admiral Chris Parry, said:

“It’s a significant capability gap and the Government is being irresponsible. It just shows that our warships are for the shop window and not for fighting.”

Former First Sea Lord, Lord West of Spithead said:

“This is just another example of where the lack of money is squeezing and making the nation less safe.We will have this gap of several years without missiles. Well, that’s fine if you don’t have to fight anybody in the meantime.”

As for what form a replacement will take, it’s anyones guess however Lockheed Martin are eager to have their Long Range Anti-Ship Missile fitted to new Type 26 Frigate fleet.

Frank St. John, vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control said:

“Type 26 will be fitted with MK 41 vertical launching system and I believe LRASM would be a good fit for these vessels.”

16 COMMENTS

  1. Just seems like a cookie cutter response. We know a replacement is being considered already. Is an interim being considered to avoid the 10 year gap.

    We know how this will go, if we can go a decade without you better hope there is a compeling business reason (welfare) to fund a replacement that far down the road.

    “I am withholding further detail as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces.”

    You give that line before it’s been all over the press that you are about to have a gap in capability.

    Hell you could’ve painted a tube grey, slapped royal navy on it, “accidently” reveal its super secret ship killing abilities during a cabinet meeting and faked it for 10 years.

    It would have shown some planning and procurement ability, sending an intern down to B&Q for the rollers is kind of like leadership.

  2. Even if a replacement is found, what will the RN have to give up to get it? As always, the government will rob Peter to pay Paul – bloody ridiculous….

  3. This leaving gaps in procuring successors is going to one day hit us and hit us hard. The gap in the carrier procurement, nimrod, harriers, ground attack jets, harpoon among others is setting a dangerous precedent that left unchecked will continue to affect more and more of our armed forces. This is beyond complacent.

    • Spot on Dave! My worry is that ‘capability gaps’ are no longer seen as an exception but instead become more and more acceptable and the gaps themselves therefore widening more than necessary. The very term is a cover for a lack of funds – let’s call a spade a spade! Dangerous road we walk…

  4. Good Morning Gentlemen.

    Do any of you know if there is a suitable interim replacement available to plug the gap? What are the US Navy doing-they still operate Harpoon and will presumably have to hang on to it until the next generation is available. Can the existing system be upgraded in the short term and finally if the Harpoon was given a reprieve it is still unlikely to fill in for the complete ten year period!

  5. The other big problem is the absurdly long period that modern weaponry requires to travel from conception to full operating capability. I realise we have moved on from Liberty ships and Spitfires being churned our at a dozen a week but when you look at the QE Carriers for example-from the 1997 SDR to full operating-more than 25 years-a Quarter of a Century!!!!!
    There has to be another way

  6. geoff you forgot to mention the mega pounds spent on spurious investigations which incidently keep changing title so no accurate account is forth coming ,by DOD. Recent classic example was if someone with authority and intelligence (which I appreciate doesn’t always go together,seemly less in recent times) the sum total investigating what became Crows nest for the RN Merlin could have been tackled by saying “on basis of limited funds and the fact the the present system on the SeaKing helicopters are current combat operational lets start transfering the system over to the Merlins with a console upgrade and with all the funds saved we can contribute to bring some off the orphan Merlins up to scratch and then not have compromise the HM2 from their assigned role”.But then that’s too much like common sense.

    • Ha John-good point. There have been some enormous sums spent on these preliminary investigations and in ‘the design phase’ that boggle the mind and defy understanding

  7. Was they not testing a sea launched Brimstone last year? I saw a youtube video of it being tested from an oil rig against small surface boats. Maybe a modified Brimstone 2?

    • Thats to deal with swam attaks buy small boats. It would be all but useless to sink another large war ship, which harpoon is designed to do.

      • Question begs; what type of warhead is needed for a thin hull destroyer? the new Brimstone 2 has a 120km range, if it can take out a T90 tank then why can’t it at least disable a frigate?

  8. Looks like the US is going for the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), an “over-the-horizon” antiship cruise missile with a range of about 115 miles. Seems that it going to fitted to LCS Ships

  9. The NSM is modern (the most modern in the NATO fleet), available from a close and reliable country, and would fill the gap perfectly even if the missile proposed may replace it longer term (let us face reality, at least a decade). As Raytheon has demonstrated on the LCS for the USN, it fits on deck mounted canisters very similar to Harpoon, so should prove a relatively easy fit on both Type 23 and Type 45, and the canisters on the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate, while positioned differently from the Harpoons in UK service, show them in operational use. It strikes me as the logical choice.

  10. The scrapping of harpoon leaves the RN in a desperate situation. The only major navy in the world with ships that cannot fight other ships with anything other than medium guns. Capability gap? It is madness!
    There are better options and easily fitted options if only our beloved government simply put their hands in their pockets and do some joined up procurement. Fit strike length mk41 vl systems to the type 45 destroyers asap. These can then carry ASROC, the new American long range anti ship missle (based on tomahawk) as well as standard sm6 BMD missles, as well as of course tomahawk. What a result that would be. If strike cells were fitted to type 45 and type 26 frigates they would be a force multiplier, able to project power well over the horizon and carry a significant punch against land, sea, subsurface targets. The type 45 hull is large enough to be retrofitted with either a 24 or 36 cell mk41 vl system.
    As the type 45s need to go into dry dock to have their hulls cut open to fit new diesel generators to fix their power supply problems that is the sensible time to fit mk41 strike length systems.

  11. Since cost is an issue, RN should just hang on to the Harpoon and refurbish them to Block II+ER standard as it becomes available. This is the lowest cost option of equipping surface combatants to threaten Russian warships with the possibility of 8 low RCS sea skimming over the horizon missiles arriving simultaneously from multiple directions from a tactically significant range.

    • I agree FM. It’s the best low cost option available to give the Type 23 a badly need offensive capability until Mk41 VLS can be installed in Type 45 & 26. Then go for new long range anti-ship Tomahawk, and perhaps LSRAM. The new Tomahawk out ranges Soviet anti-ship missiles.

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