CONTENT PREVIEW
Naval Weapons

UK to retire GWS 60 Harpoon at end of 2018

15 November 2016
The GWS60/Harpoon system is fitted to the RN's 13 Type 23 frigates. Shown here is a High Seas Firing from HMS Argyll. Source: UK Ministry of Defence

Key Points

  • Retirement of Harpoon will leave RN warships without a heavyweight surface-to-surface guided weapon
  • The United Kingdom currently has no funded programme for a Harpoon replacement

The United Kingdom will withdraw the GWS 60/Harpoon Block 1C anti-ship missile from Royal Navy (RN) service at the end of 2018 without replacement, IHS Jane's has learned.

The retirement of Harpoon will leave RN warships without a heavyweight surface-to-surface guided weapon (SSGW), opening up a gap in over-the-horizon anti-surface warfare capability. Furthermore, with the helicopter-launched Sea Skua missile going out of service (OSD) at the end of March 2017, the RN will be devoid of any anti-surface guided weapon for about two years pending the introduction of the Sea Venom/ANL lightweight anti-ship missile on the Wildcat HMA.2 helicopter in late 2020.

Harpoon Block 1C is a turbojet-powered sea-skimming missile that is autonomous from launch. Cruising at a speed of Mach 0.9, and credited with a maximum range of about 130 km, the missile flies out steering to a commanded heading, using inertial guidance, before then searching a designated area for its target with a J-band active radar seeker. Several flightpath waypoints can be programmed before launch using the AN/SWG-1A ship command/launch control system.

Originally developed by McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing, the GWS 60 Harpoon system was competitively procured in 1984 to meet the RN's need, set out in Staff Requirement (Sea) 6548, for a second-generation SSGW to equip its Type 22 Batch 3 frigates and Type 23 frigates. The system currently equips all 13 Type 23 frigates, plus three out of the RN's six Type 45 destroyers; in the latter case, HMS Daring, HMS Diamond, and HMS Duncan are all equipped with redundant Harpoon ship equipments transferred from the now decommissioned Type 22 Batch 3 frigates.

In July 2014 a Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) solicitation for GWS60 in-service support and post-design services confirmed 2018 as the current planned OSD for Harpoon.

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