The jointly developed anti-ship missile will replace Harpoon in British service and Exocet in French service.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence, this move builds on commitments made in the Lancaster House Treaty.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin and her French counterpart Laurent Collet-Billon signed an agreement to enable the next phase of the programme to begin.

Délégué Général pour l’Armement, Laurent Collet-Billon said:

“The documents that we signed today are concrete evidence of the strong links that bind France and the United Kingdom in the armament field. By signing these new agreements, we have set the momentum for the coming months.

I sincerely thank the French and British teams for the huge amount of work that has led to this achievement. Several major milestones within our equipment cooperation await us in 2017 and we will work just as hard to pass them.

I am specifically thinking about the FC/ASW programme conception phase contract award in March 2017 and the launch of the FCAS programme demonstration phase at the end of the year.”

Earlier in 2016 at the UK-France Security Summit, the two parties pledged to work on a “joint concept phase for the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme to identify solutions for replacement of the Scalp/Storm Shadow missiles for both countries, Harpoon for the UK and Exocet for France.”

According to a joint statement issued regarding the summit, a cruise missile will also be developed:

“Since the last Summit, significant milestones have been reached on Collaborative weapons projects: on the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy) / Anti Navire Léger programme, a joint contract for the £500m (€600m) worth Development and Manufacturing phase was signed in March 2014 ; on the SCALP / Storm Shadow Capability Enhancement Programme, a 2-year Design Phase was launched in July 2014 ; there has also been extensive information exchanges in 2015 and building of understanding on portfolio opportunities.

Besides, other key cooperative missile activities will be extended further in 2016, such as the sustainment of our Aster missiles stockpiles and the shared-studied enhancement of our SCALP / Storm Shadow capability. We signed today a SoI confirming our intent to enter into a joint concept phase for the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme to identify solutions for replacement of the Scalp/Storm Shadow missiles for both countries, Harpoon for the UK and Exocet for France. Any Concept Phase would seek to inform by 2020 decisions concerning a potential follow-on Assessment Phase.

We are working with the objective to sign arrangement for this Concept Phase for the end of 2016, to pave the way for possible contracts by March 2017.”

The decision to launch a joint concept phase for the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) programme is listed by MBDA as a “solid prospect” for the future growth of the company.

MBDA previously showcased CVS401 Perseus for this role (pictured above), Perseus is a supersonic cruise missile, being developed “in consultation with the Royal Navy and French Navy”. The weapon was first unveiled at the 2011 Paris Air Show.

The defence company describes the missile as a “Unique multi-role, multi-Platform weapon system to be integrated on all major weapon platforms such as; warships, submarines, aircraft and land-based platforms.”

The missile showcased by MBDA reportedly has a range of 300km and can reach speeds of Mach 3 however at this stage, it’s just a concept.

Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin said:

“This innovative project further strengthens the UK-French defence relationship and supports innovative research on both sides of the Channel.

In an uncertain world, working with international partners and allies is more important than ever and I am delighted that our teams, working with British and French industry partners, are making good progress on these ambitious bilateral programmes.”

While this news is welcome, it does not address the significant gap the retirement of Harpoon will cause. The Royal Navy will 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.

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.”

Many however describe 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 this morning ‘better than nothing’.


  1. All sounds very reasonable, replacing several different missiles with one type.

    Just two questions, the in service date and how much?

    Probably the most viable alternative would be the USA LRASM, which will be available shortly and cost less than US $1m each

  2. The real Kicker is this statement : The missile showcased by MBDA reportedly has a range of 300km and can reach speeds of Mach 3 however at this stage, it’s just a concept. Not even tested The other point this missile was showcased The weapon was first unveiled at the 2011 Paris Air Show. So if the British Government new that Harpoon was going to be out of service 2018 Why didnt they act back in 2011 ?? And what happens when we leave the EU the price will soar with the French or they will not want anything else to do with UK I agree with Mike better of going with the USA LRASM I still say today we went the wrong way when we built the Euro Tunnel

    • The thing about the LRASM is that it will not be canister launched….. this is very important.

      The LRASM will be air launched or from Mk-41 vls…..

      So, in other words, it will only work from the mythical T26s, but not the T45s (without modification).

      They could have just spent a tiny sum of money on some newer Harpoons and be done with it.

      • Joe I agree, we need to fit mk41 vls to t45 destroyers as a matter of urgency. The procure the missiles at the same time, the money is there we need to stop wasting it on trivia.

      • “Lockheed Martin is preparing to compete for OASuW Increment II competition in 2017” Scott Callaway, Surface Launched LRASM Program Director, told us during SNA 2016.

        In its deck mounted configuration, a LRASM launcher has the exact same footprint as a Harpoon launcher. It looks similar in form and shape as well: The LRASM missile fits inside a cylindrical canister positioned at an angle (just like the existing Harpoon launchers). The deck mounted LRASM shares the same MK 114 ASROCK booster as in the vertical launch variant. Lockheed Martin has already evaluated the console size requirements to accommodate LRASM and confirms the console would fit on the LCS frigate variant.

        Navy Recognition also learned that LRASM could potentially come with land attack capability. While this capability is not part of the current (OASuW increment I) set of requirements (increment II requirements have not been released yet), we were told that a software update would provide LRASM with such capability. This is because LRASM is based on the AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) standoff land attack cruise missile.

        Scott Callaway concluded by telling us “Lockheed Martin is ready now for an at sea testing of LRASM in top side or Mk-41 VLS configuration”.

  3. Got to love knee jerk reactions from the MOD/Government. Negative news in the newspapers about the Harpoon going out of service and they rush out a story to make it look like all is ok, but if you read the story properly its clear that these will not be ready any time soon and there will be a significant gap in capability. The PR department of the MOD really could do with some new blood, as this story and the american jets on the carriers, just make things look worse and not better.

  4. The point is missed! This is continued waffle to hide yet another capability gap that has no end date. The reality, laughable and disturbing, is that the few warfare capable escorts we have will soon possess NO offensive capability(ASuW) against similar classed warships. Wildcat can carry missiles capable of taking out a fishing boat, providing they are serviceable and sea state allows take off. Total incompetence and an inability to plan and communicate within the RN and MoD has left our fleet exposed in yet another area; this one is a game changer, no heavy ASuW missiles, our ships will be target practice for most credible navies regardless of size. We have SSN’s of course, 7, with one to protect our active SSBN and one for the carrier, 8 are required to achieve this. What chance for the rest of the fleet?

    The answer is simple, man-up, recognise this is unacceptable on any level and find an interim solution that is not through away like the new OPV. Fix and fit the Type 45’s with the mk41 launchers and LRASM – credible, our destroyers will start looking like destroyers instead of expensive, highly vulnerable grey coffins. ‘Fitted for but not with’, who ever came up with that should be fired!

  5. The Harpoon missile is rapidly about to be superseded by a range of much more effective anti-ship missiles which the UK will be operating with in the next few years. And an Astute class sub with a couple of dozen Spearfish sailing either as part of a carrier task group or independently is a much bigger threat to any potential adversary either above or below the waves than a frigate with harpoons can ever be.

  6. jack, I think you are missing the point. It is no good saying that in 10 years, for example, we will introduce in to service the replacement for the Harpoon that went out of service in 2018. And regards the SSNs, they cannot be everywhere at once. When the Harpoon goes it’s replacement should be at the quayside ready to be fitted.

  7. Harpoon has never been fired in anger by the RN, unlike Sea Skua which has been used extensively over several decades. The superb new Martlet and Sea Venom anti-surface missiles which are now coming on stream and will be more effective in terms of operational use for the Royal Navy than harpoon ever will.

    • The helicopter dropped missiles appeared to be roundly ineffective in the Iraq wars, if you compare total fired against ships sunk / disabled.

    • Jack so on that basis we should get rid of trident, asraam, starstreak, rapier 2000 and countless other weapon systems as they have never been used.

      Equipping our armed forces with the weapons they would need in the event of conflict, rather than historical usage is the only viable way forward.

  8. Baffling decision by the Royal Navy.

    Especially given the latest upgrades to the Harpoon mean it is a more than useful ‘stop-gap’ until the next generation of missiles are developed, proven and fielded – the road from vapourware to war load could be a decade away.

    The Royal Australian Navy, for example, employs the Block II Harpoon which is capable of land attack (a poor man’s Tomahawk if you will) albeit its relatively short 124 km range means its launch platform will need to be operating in the littoral to strike coastal targets. Still a useful capability against shore based ASMs, coastal SAM sites or ports and other strategic coastal targets.

    Boeing is working on a Block II+ with an extended range out to around 200 kms.

    The RAN is heavily invested in Harpoon with the soon to be retired Adelaide Class, ANZAC frigates and Hobart Class destroyers (first one on sea trials, second launched last week) and the Collins SSKs all Harpoon equipped (around 17 naval platforms).

    While the RAAF’s Hornets, Super Hornets (and I assume Growlers) plus current AP3C Orions and their replacement P8s (first aircraft already in Australia) all employ Harpoon in the maritime strike role (so over 100 fast jets plus 12 P8s).

    Australia is hedging its bets though and funding the expansion of Konesberg’s Joint Strike Missile’s capabilities. Not only is it able to be launched from a VLS (all RAN frigates and destroyers are MK 41 VLS equipped), it is the only ASM able to be carried internally in the RAAF’s F35’s weapons bays offering a stealthy strike option.

    What were you blokes thinking?

  9. I don’t think you can realistically compare a Sea Skua missile designed in 1972 (30 kg warhead, 25 km range) with a recent Block II Harpoon (221 kg warhead, 124 km range).

    However well they may have performed in the Falklands or the Gulf War (mostly against small patrol boats or landing craft), their helo launch platforms would be very vulnerable in the current SAM threat environment.

    For example an ESSM missile (fielded by 12 western navies including the USN and RAN) closes at Mach 4 and has double the range of a Sea Skua. It could destroy the helo before it could get in range to launch its missile.

    Even if it got a shot away an ESSM can destroy an incoming manoeuvring supersonic target, let alone a subsonic one. So good luck with that in 2017.

  10. Ditto Martlet (13 kg warhead, 8km range) and Sea Venom (30 kg, 20 km).

    They may be very effective new generation weapons for what they do (analogous to the AGM-114R Hellfire II in service on the USN and RAN MH60 R Romeos) but they are a different class of weapon to Harpoon.

    They are not designed for ASuW against capital ships.

    Apples and Oranges really.

    • The Sea Venom missiles can be used against large naval targets using precise aiming points on the vessel to be attacked.
      In addition many of the contributors to this debate seem to be unaware or ignorant of Spear 3, 8 of which can be carried in the bay of an F35b and can be used in a saturation strike on large surface ships, which will added to the inventory soon.

  11. Sea Venom can inflict severe damage on large warship targets through precise aim point targeting. Sea Venom can also be used against land based targets.
    The Sea Skua was fired in anger many times. Harpoon and its predecessor Exocet never was used in action by the RN.

  12. With the exception of the US one, the current options don’t appear to be radar stealthy. Unless there is another situation like the Falklands where a task group is forced too close to shore, I suspect modern radar/defense systems could handle any of the options above. Even then, with modern radar / aew, i suspect they would have been identified and dealt with.

    At this point, a saturation attack system seems to be a better option, something like a large number of small missiles (something like 20+), with the hope of getting enough through to do worthwhile combined damage. Whether you can make a small missile that can do enough damage, to be worth while is another question.

  13. One more point to consider is the new spear 3 missile 8 of which can be contained within the bay of the new F35b’s. These can be launched in a saturation attack at long range against a surface vessel.

  14. Uk Government better come up with something FAST as Argentina are looking to buy BrahMos extended Range
    Military sources told IHS Jane’s that the two sides reached a deal to double the BrahMos’ range to around 600 km during Russian president Vladimir Putin’s trip to Goa in mid-October.
    Configured on the Russian Navy’s P-800 Oniks anti-ship system (SS-N-26 ‘Strobile’) and its 3M55 missile, the BrahMos and its variants are manufactured at a dedicated facility in Hyderabad, southern India.
    The missiles have been in service with the Indian Army (IA) and Indian Navy (IN) for almost a decade, but India is now also planning to test-fire the cruise missile from a submarine and a Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter.
    Russia supplies 65% of the BrahMos’ components, including its ramjet engine and radar seeker, and the two countries are believed to have recently resolved long-standing issues regarding the system’s intellectual property rights, thus allowing India to export the Brahmos.
    In June Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar had agreed to supply the BrahMos to Vietnam, while countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand were considering whether to place orders, Indian officials said.
    Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates are reportedly also among the countries that have expressed interest in acquiring the cruise missile.

    • Argentina is in no state to attack the falklands, with or without the missiles.

      Taking out HMS Clyde only gets them so far, they still need to sneak up on the garrison there and do so without the UK reinforcing it.

      Ok this wouldn’t be that hard considering the limited number of front line troops stationed there and the reality that the political complications involved in reinforcing the islands, would mean that the government would only do it after the attack has started. However the defending troops would only need to defend for around 48 hours before a large number of reinforcements arrive either via mount pleasant airfield or para dropped.

      For sure, if somehow they managed to take the islands, then we have some serious problems with these missiles, but first they need to take them. Not to mention that there doesn’t’ appear to be a will to do so currently.

  15. This is where the fitted for but not with, doesn’t look like such a terrible decision. We can in theory pick and choose which weapon system we want and then also buy the VLS system to match and fit them to the ships.

  16. We also have to put this into context, the US Navy, which has almost bottomless resoures has the same problem. I just think no one saw the need for ship to ship combat until Russia flared up again and China started enforcing its will against those of the US.

  17. The Norwegian Naval Strike Missile 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.


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