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AGM-84 Harpoon: Wikis


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Harpoon asm bowfin museum.jpg
A Harpoon missile on display at the USS Bowfin museum at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Type Anti-ship missile
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1977–present
Production history
Manufacturer Boeing Integrated Defense Systems
Unit cost US$720,000
Weight 1,144–1,385 lb (519–628 kg) depending on launch platform
Length 15.4 ft (4.7 m)
Diameter 1.1 ft (0.34 m)

Warhead 487 pounds (221 kg)

Engine Teledyne Teledyne J402 turbojet, solid fuel booster (surface and submarine launched versions)
Wingspan 3 ft (0.91 m)
58–196 mi (93–315 km) depending on launch platform
Flight altitude Sea-skimming
Speed 537 miles per hour (864 km/h)(240 m/s)
Active radar
  • RGM-84A surface-launched
  • AGM-84A air-launched
  • UGM-84A submarine-launched

The Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system, developed and manufactured by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing Integrated Defense Systems). In 2004, Boeing delivered the 7,000th Harpoon unit since the weapon's introduction in 1977. The missile system has also been further developed into a land-strike weapon, the Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM).

The regular Harpoon uses active radar homing, and a low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory to improve survivability and lethality. The missile's launch platforms include:

  • Fixed-wing aircraft (the AGM-84, without the solid-fuel rocket booster)
  • Surface ships (the RGM-84, fitted with a solid-fuel rocket booster that detaches when expended, to allow the missile's main turbojet to maintain flight)
  • Submarines (the UGM-84, fitted with a solid-fuel rocket booster and encapsulated in a container to enable submerged launch through a torpedo tube);
  • Coastal defense batteries, from which it would be fired with a solid-fuel rocket booster.

The missile is comparable to the French-made Exocet missile, the Swedish RBS-15 missile, the Russian SS-N-25 Switchblade, the British Sea Eagle missile, and the Chinese Yingji.




Early Harpoons

The Harpoon was first introduced in 1977 after the sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat in 1967 by a Soviet-built Styx anti-ship missile from an Egyptian missile boat. Initially developed as an air-launched missile for the United States Navy P-3 Orion patrol planes, the Harpoon has been adapted for use on U.S. Air Force B-52H bombers, which can carry from eight to 12 of the missiles. The Harpoon missile has been purchased by many American allies, especially by the NATO countries (such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy) and Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, etc., in other parts of the world.

The Harpoon has also been adapted for carrying by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, in operation by the U.S. Air Force, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates. It has been carried by several U.S. Navy aircraft, including the P-3 Orion patrol plane, the A-6 Intruder, the S-3 Viking, the AV-8B Harrier II, and the F/A-18 Hornet.

The Royal Australian Air Force can fire AGM-84 series missiles from its F-111C/G Aardvarks, F/A-18 Hornets, and P-3C Orion aircraft. The Royal Australian Navy deploys the Harpoon on major surface combatants and in the Collins-class submarines. The Spanish Air Force and the Chilean Navy are also AGM-84D customers, and they deploy the missiles on surface ships, F/A-18s, F-16s, and P-3 Orion aircraft. The British Royal Navy deploys the Harpoon on several types of surface ships and submarines, and the Royal Air Force carries it on its Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol plane.

The Canadian frigate HMCS Regina (FFH 334) fires a Harpoon anti-ship missile during a Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) sinking exercise.

The Canadian Forces Maritime Command (Canadian Navy) carries Harpoon missiles on its Halifax-class frigates. The Royal New Zealand Air Force has the capability of carrying the Harpoon on its five P-3 Orion patrol planes - as its only means of striking surface ships.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force also operates five modified Fokker 50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) which are fitted with the sensors needes to fire the Harpoon missile. The Pakistani Navy carries the Harpoon missile on its naval frigates and P-3C Orions. The Turkish Navy carries Harpoons on surface warships and Type-209 submarines. The Turkish Air Force will be armed with the SLAM-ER.

Fifty-seven Harpoon missiles were reportedly sold to the Republic of China Air Force (Taiwan). The Taiwanese Navy also includes four guided-missile destroyers and several guided-missile frigates with the capability of carrying the Harpoon, include the several former U.S. Navy Knox class frigates and the locally-built derivative of the Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates. There are also the four former U.S.N. Kidd class guided-missile destroyers, which have been sold to Taiwan and have the capability of carrying Harpoon missiles.

Harpoon Block ID

This version featured a larger fuel tank and re-attack capability, but was not produced in large numbers because its intended mission (warfare with the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe) was considered to be unlikely following the events of 1991 - 92.


This version, under development, gives the SLAM a re-attack capability as well as an image comparison capability similar to the Tomahawk cruise missile; that is, the weapon can compare the target scene in front of it with an image stored in its on-board computer during terminal phase target acquisition and lock on.[1]

Harpoon Block II

Harpoon Block II test firing from USS Decatur.

In production at Boeing facilities in Saint Charles, Missouri, is the Harpoon Block II, intended to offer an expanded engagement envelope, enhanced resistance to electronic countermeasures and improved targeting. Specifically, the Harpoon was initially designed as an open-ocean weapon. The Block II missiles continue progress begun with Block IE, and the Block II missile provides the Harpoon with a littoral-water anti-ship capability.

The key improvements of the Harpoon Block II are obtained by incorporating the inertial measurement unit from the Joint Direct Attack Munition program, and the software, computer, Global Positioning System (GPS)/inertial navigation system and GPS antenna/receiver from the SLAM Expanded Response (SLAM-ER), an upgrade to the SLAM.

Although initially tested from U.S. Navy ships, the decision was made to not procure Harpoon Block II for the U.S. Navy fleet. Boeing lists 28 foreign navies as Block II customers.


Harpoon Block III

Harpoon Block III was intended to be an upgrade package to the existing USN Block 1C missiles and Command Launch Systems (CLS) for guided-missile cruisers, guided-missile destroyers, and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet airplane. After experiencing an increase in the scope of required government ship integration, test and evaluation, and a delay in development of a data-link, the Harpoon Block III program was canceled by the U.S. Navy in April 2009. Cancellation of Block III however does not preclude the possibility of continued incremental upgrades to the Harpoon missile and launching suite in the future.

Operational history

In 1981 and 1982 there were two accidental launches of Harpoon missiles from U.S.N. and Danish Navy surface ships.

In 1986, the United States Navy sank at least two Libyan patrol boats in the Gulf of Sidra. Two Harpoon missiles were launched from the USS Yorktown with no confirmed results and several others from A-6 Intruder aircraft that were said to have hit their targets.[2][3] Initial reports claimed that the USS Yorktown scored hits on a patrol boat, but action reports indicated that the target may have been a false one and that no ships were hit by those missiles.[4]

In 1988, Harpoon missiles were used to sink the Iranian frigate Sahand during Operation Praying Mantis. Another was fired at the Sina class missile boat Joshan, but failed to strike because the Fast Attack Craft (FAC) had already been mostly sunk by RIM-66 Standard missiles. An Iranian-owned Harpoon missile was also fired at the guided missile cruiser USS Wainwright. The missile was successfully lured away by chaff.[5]

In December 1988, a Harpoon launched by an F/A-18 Hornet fighter from the aircraft carrier USS Constellation[6] killed one sailor when it struck the merchant ship Jagvivek, a 250 ft (76 m) long Indian-owned ship, during an exercise at the Pacific Missile Range near Kauai, Hawaii. A Notice to Mariners had been issued warning of the danger, but the Jagvivek strayed into the test range area, and the Harpoon missile, fortunately loaded just with an inert dummy warhead, locked onto it instead of its intended target.

In June 2009, it was reported by an American newspaper, citing unnamed officials from the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress, that the American government had accused Pakistan of illegally modifying some older Harpoon missiles to strike land-based targets. Pakistani officials denied this and they claimed that the United States was referring to a new Pakistani-designed missile. Some international experts were also reported to be very sceptical of the accusations. Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air Launched Weapons, pointed out that the Harpoon is not suitable for the land-attack role due to deficiency in range. He also stated that Pakistan was already armed with more sophisticated missiles of Pakistani or Chinese design and, therefore, "beyond the need to reverse-engineer old U.S. kit." Hewson offered that the missile tested by Pakistan was part of an undertaking to develop conventionally armed missiles, capable of being air- or surface-launched, to counter its rival India's missile arsenal.[7][8][9] It was later stated that Pakistan and the U.S. administration had reached some sort of agreement allowing U.S. officials to inspect Pakistan's inventory of Harpoon missiles,[10][11] and the issue had been resolved.[12]

General characteristics

Harpoon Block II test firing from USS Thorn.
  • Primary function: Air-, surface-, or submarine-launched anti-surface (anti-ship) missile
  • Contractor: The McDonnell Douglas Astronautic Company - East
  • Power plant: Teledyne Teledyne J402 turbojet, 660 lb (300 kg)-force (2.9 kN) thrust, and a solid-propellant booster for surface and submarine launches
  • Length:
    • Air launched: 3.8 metres (12 ft) 7 in)
    • Surface and submarine launched: 4.6 metres (15 ft)
  • Weight:
    • Air launched: 519 kilograms (1,140 lb)
    • Submarine or ship launched from box or canister launcher: 628 kilograms (1,380 lb)
  • Diameter: 340 millimetres (13 in)
  • Wing span: 914 millimetres (36.0 in)
  • Maximum altitude: 910 metres (3,000 ft) with booster fins and wings
  • Range: Over-the-horizon (approx 50 nautical miles)
    • AGM-84D: 220 km (120 nmi)
    • RGM/UGM-84D: 140 km (75 nmi)
    • AGM-84E: 93 km (50 nmi)
    • AGM-84F: 315 km (170 nmi)
    • AGM-84H/K: 280 km (150 nmi)
  • Speed: High subsonic, around 850 km/h (460 knots, 240 m/s, or 530 mph)
  • Guidance: Sea-skimming cruise monitored by radar altimeter, active radar terminal homing
  • Warhead: 221 kilograms (490 lb), penetration high-explosive blast
  • Unit cost: US$720,000
  • Date deployed:
    • Ship launched (RGM-84A): 1977
    • Air launched (AGM-84A): 1979
    • Submarine launched (UGM-84A): 1981
    • SLAM (AGM-84E): 1990
    • SLAM-ER (AGM-84H): 1998 (delivery); 2000 (initial operational capability (IOC))
    • SLAM-ER ATA (AGM-84K): 2002 (IOC)


External links


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