Farther, Faster, Smarter
Next-generation ship-launched cruise missiles are taking shape
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
used Harpoons to sink two Iraqi
missile boats. In 1986, the cruiser
USS Yorktown and Navy A- 6 aircraft fired Harpoons at Libyan
ships in the Gulf of Sidra. In 1988,
U.S. and Iranian naval units fired
Harpoons at each other. The
Iranian frigate Sahand was engaged
and sunk by Harpoon missiles
fired by the frigate USS Joseph
Strauss and A- 6 aircraft.
The current Harpoon Block IC
version has a radar capability that
provides terminal guidance to a target ship but lacks a data link for
updates in the target ship’s position. A Block II version
— with Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment for
improved midcourse guidance and usable in a land-attack role — is in service with 28 foreign navies.
Boeing proposed a Block III equipped with GPS and
a data link for target position updates, but in April 2009
the Navy canceled plans to deploy it for budget reasons.
“The Harpoon cruise missile is intended to remain
in service until at least 2025,” said Capt. Carl Chebi,
the Navy’s program manager for precision strike
weapons. “The Navy is maintaining the Harpoon
weapon system as the primary anti-surface weapon for
attacking mobile targets at sea.”
“In November 2010, the Navy completed an Offensive
ASUW Initial Capabilities Document [ICD], which iden-
tified the capability gaps across the ASUW kill chain,”
Gelinas said. “This document summarizes the results of
analysis and describes why nonmaterial changes alone
have been judged inadequate in fully providing this capa-
bility. The Navy is now conducting an Offensive ASUW
Analysis of Alternatives [AOA] to determine preferred
material concepts to mitigate the capability gaps.”
The AOA, scheduled for completion in December,
“is evaluating more than 40 surface- and air-launched
concepts that were submitted by industry and acade-
The Navy is looking at options for cruise missiles to replace the
Harpoon anti-ship missile system and rapidly develop a new long-range maritime strike weapon.
; An analysis of alternatives for the Harpoon replacement was
due in December.
; DARPA is developing two options for a longer-range missile.
; Autonomy is being stressed to address degradation of links
with offboard sensors and guidance.
The Navy is progressing toward development of a new anti-ship cruise missile to arm its surface combatants with a replacement for the long-serv-ing RGM-84 Harpoon. It also is working with the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop
a “smarter” very-long-range anti-ship missile that will
enable surface combatants to engage ships at even longer
ranges in a degraded communications environment.
In an era of successful land-attack missions, including Tomahawk missile strikes earlier this year in Libya,
the Navy is turning its attention toward enhancing its
ability to attack ships at sea.
“The Navy has always considered maritime domi-
nance a core competence,” said Lt. Cmdr. Robert
Gelinas, surface strike officer in the Office of the Chief
of Naval Operations. “Due to evolving threats, the
Navy does see a requirement to improve its ability to
strike moving maritime targets.”
The Navy has fielded the Boeing-built R/AGM-84
Harpoon Block I anti-surface warfare (ASUW) cruise
missile for more than three decades from its surface
combatants — and, until recently, attack submarines
— as well as P- 3 and F/A-18 aircraft.
Since the advent of the Harpoon, it has been fired in
anger only on a few occasions. In 1980, Iranian forces