The Royal Navy will lose its anti-ship missile capability in 2018 when the Harpoon missile is withdrawn.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

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’.

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.”

The Harpoon was developed and manufactured by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing Defense, Space & Security). In 2004, Boeing delivered the 7,000th Harpoon unit since the weapon’s introduction in 1977. The Harpoon uses active radar homing, and a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory to improve survivability and lethality.

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all our surface fleet should be armed with some sort of ASM,you can,t rely on aircraft or subs to be there to protect..and given the cost of a destroyer carrier etc,it,s to much of an asset to loose,the only thing the government learnt was anti aircraft from the Falklands conflict,but with social media interweb etc the next war will see our enemy exploiting our week spots and taking it…..


I don’t really think the lesson was fully learnt, considering the current frigates have no CIWS and the carriers don’t have any form of point defence missiles. If i remember correctly the Type23’s have torpedo tudes, so still have some form of ASW capability, it is just surprising that the 42’s don’t have them and i think the new design for the 26’s is the same. However I suspect Harpoon is probably pretty redundent by now, as you would need some form of saturation attack to defeat modern anti-missile missile systems carried on most ships and so better than nothing… Read more »


The 23’s torpedo tubes are for short range lightweight ASW torpedoes with very limited ASuW capability. Putting your stingray in range of an enemy warship would put you in range of something a lot more nasty coming the other way.

David Owen

Andy u are spot on ,the bungholes that are in charge at the MOD have no concept of military operations ,well the bean counters (complete assholes)our people need the stuff now not 10 years down the line


How come that Mod knew this and hasnt come up with a replacement how can we shake the gates of russia when we cannot attack anybody this country is a absulote waste of time we are suppose to be the 5 most powerful country in the world military rankings we are a laughing stock but below is the answer The CM-302 missile exhibited at Airshow China 2016 is being marketed for export as “the world’s best anti-ship missile”, according to Chinese news media. The report states that the CM-302 has a range of 280 km, a warhead of 250 kg,… Read more »


The US pretty much still relies on Hypoon also, so the worlds top military is not far off the same place we are.


It is actually worse than it appears – without harpoon our warships are incapable of actually sinking another warship. 5′ gun has little impact, no torpedoes, and the AAW missiles are all defensive.

Not actually sure how we plan to win a sea battle if we cannot destroy the opposition and the simple fact is that we cannot.


What sea battle?


Unfortunately this is yet another example of poor management. It is becoming ridiculous how much we spend and how little it delivers. This news coming on top of the NAO report on the estate where we are spending £4.8bn p.a. and yet it is in an unfit state and requires £8.5bn to get it into a satisfactory state (not great – satisfactory) simply begs the question of what are we spending the defence budget on. It is not resources as they have been lowered to the point where operations are unsustainable. It cannot be equipment as really we don’t have… Read more »


Sea wise at least we have the Astute’s and the helicopters.

The bigger problem at the minute is lack of aircraft based weapons. Let’s hope they get some anti-ship weapons for the f35’s


It has that 1938 feel about it.


Pretty much the whole of NATO relies on these missiles, so whilst not great, it has little to do with the Royal Navies lack of planning and more to do with lack of real options in the world of advanced anti-missile systems.

Mike Saul

We have shocking capability gaps in the conventional weapon range. No long range anti tank missile system (swing fire is long gone) troops driving around in 50 year old fv432’s ( fres uv never happened) no maritime patrol aircraft (until the p8 arrives) most of RN warships poorly equipped regards weapon systems.

Its a complete mess and cannot see that any mainstream UK political party has a solution to the problem.


Britain is still giving hundreds of millions of pounds in aid every year to “middle-income” countries like China and India despite giving the impression that it has stopped doing so, an official review has found We have given 10 million to china It is time Michael Fallon was sacked this has all the hallmarks of 1982 when we had John Nott. He was a complete waste of time also Really dont know what is going to happen when ships have comments to Nato or deploy to the gulf for 10 months or attached to standing nato force atlantic when the… Read more »


In reality, the UK gave no aid to China last year, and in the case of India, the countries aid budget has fallen four-fold over the last four years, with the majority focusing on health and enabling Indian citizens to improve their rights to land and housing. Last year, the UK’s top priorities were Ethiopia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria, where as many as 68% of the countries’ populations live on less than a £1 a day.


I suspect the RN is trying to shame the Government with public pressure to get a replacement system as soon as possible. The news is already in the national media today, “RN Warships to loose missiles”. Hopefully the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile will be procured under a UOR.

But it’s very sorry state of affairs that it’s gotten this bad. Every time Fallon is interviewed he goes on about a rising defence budgets, more ships, more jets, but it’s all just more post-truth.


I agree with you Patrick wholeheartedly and it goes to show the government’s ‘claim’ of investing 178Bn in defense is an utter sham. However, the problem with UORs is that they are not funded from the core budget long-term. In another incredulous act of accounting stupidity, the tax-payer pays a fortune for kit under UORs and then it is withdrawn from service due to a lack of money in the core budget – when the forces still desperately need it – ref. Iraq & Afghanistan. Something needs to change in British military procurement as our ROI is absolutely miserable. The… Read more »


The big question is….. Are there any anti ship missiles any where in the NATO arsenal or any where in the world that can defeat modern anti missile defence systems ? Or are we at a turning point in naval power where missiles have become useless against sea borne targets. It seems to me that if a modern warship can track an inbound object it can pretty much shoot it down, at least that’s the impression given.

Time to start work on a stealth missile perhaps.

J Peter Wilson

As a Norway is a non-EU NATO member, with whom we are already co-operating on a number of projects, perhaps buying the NSM to replace the Harpoons would be a good move.


Not really, can you imagine the media stories, Scottish jobs go to Norway as Britain buys weapons from non-nato nation.

J Peter Wilson

Steve: Norway IS a member of NATO.


Harpoons aren’t exactly indigenous UK either. Same for Aster on T45 and even Sea Ceptor, despite us giving that a rather lame UK-only name, is from UK/French/Italian owned MBDA so minority UK stake. Let’s face it, we make bits of missiles thanks to our part in MBDA but we don’t have any all-Uk options that I’m aware of so the only choices are overseas. If the UK invested in NSM I suspect we could get some sort of possibly incredibly minor local work share so it could be spun as having some UK component to it. Given that JSM is… Read more »


The only reason I believe that the government has decided to decommission Harpoon, is because they believe that if we were ever to be involved in another sea battle, we would have a ‘European ‘ or NATO task force in tow. Or more than likely the Americans with there anti ship capabilities,, as we always seem to be tasked with protecting American carriers with our type 42/45 anti air radar.. while everybody else does the ‘interesting ‘ stuff. My personal view as an ex RN gun controller, is that the idea of losing any more weapons systems off our undermanned,… Read more »


I don’t understand how we can spend almost the same on defence as Russia ($56B v $65B) yet we get nowhere near the capability they have. Consider most of their ships (especially the new corvette and frigate classes) can fire Kalibr land attack/anti-ship cruise missiles and have excellent AAW defence. Also note that they have produced their own 5th gen fighter and putting lots more modern types into service (Su34/Su35) all the while maintaining many hundreds of older types. Also think about the nuclear arsenal they have to manage and the excellent S300/S400 air defence missile systems. How can they… Read more »

Mike R

Norway is a NATO nation.


This story has been around since at least 2014, with the 2018 OSD being when the support contract is due to end. Is it now the case that it has been announced that there will definitely be no further contract to extend the OSD beyond 2018, or is that just speculation based on the current OSD and an extension could still be on the way?


The Royal Navy chose to procure two carriers when we could now have a fleet of 12 t45’s loaded to the gills with cruise / anti-ship and air defense weapons and likewise a substantial frigate force.

Yet again the MOD and armed services Chiefs make the NHS look efficient. There must be a national enquiry into procurement and pensions on the line for these clowns.

Nick Harriss

The Norwegian NSM would seem the logical choice. It is the most modern ASM currently available in the West, it is already in service so no delays, and longer term it is being developed to be launched from the F-35.

Anthony Thrift

why can’t we update our Harpoon stocks so that they can be made into a more modern ASM, as someone else stated we make parts of missiles, are these the type of parts that will improve the Harpoons until a new ASM can be developed?

David Mather

The US Navy does have a supersonic anti-ship missile in the form of the latest SM-6 missiles, they have not shouted about it as far as I can tell, but there is obviously lots on the web about it. I would of hoped that ASTER would of been designed as an anti-anything missile, if not then they should give it this capability, if my memory serves me right Sea Dart had some form of surface attack mode. Also, someone said that a 4.5″ or 5″ gun will not sink or disable another combatant, that’s obviously not the case, it just… Read more »


You could not write this as a piece of fiction, due to its implausibility.


It’s a real shame to see our military being torn limb from limb. Heads should role and egos put in check and the nation put first.

What is to stop us purchasing something like the Hsiung Feng 3 or the XASM-3 (when it appears) right now? Although the Hsiung is much bigger, surely it would still fit in the space where the Harpoons currently are on the T23s and T45s? I type of already know the answer to my own questions but am interested in what others think.


Interesting, so theoretically a WW2 Imperial Japanese Navy battlegroup centred around the battleship Yamato with its 18 inch guns could sink the entire modern Royal Navy surface fleet?