The Harpoon missile was originally developed to serve as the Navy's basic anti-ship missile for fleetwide use. It has also been adapted for use by the B-52G bombers used by the Air Force. The Harpoon can be launched by surface ships, submarines, or (without the booster) by aircraft (such as the F-18 Hornet).

The Versions:

AGM-84D Harpoon:
This missile is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile produced by Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas). The high survivability and effectiveness is assured by the active radar guidance, warhead design, and low-level, sea-skimming cruise trajectory. It was first introduced in 1977 and the air-launched version was first deployed on the Navy's P-3 Orion aircraft in 1979.

AGM-84E Harpoon/SLAM (Stand-Off Land Attack missile):
This version is used for long-range land attack precision strikes. It uses an internal navigation system with GPS, infrared terminal guidance, and is fitted with a Tomahawk warhead for better penetration.

SLAM-ER (Expanded Response):
This version is an upgrade currently in production. Improvements:
- greater range (150+ miles),
- a titanium warhead for increased penetration, and
- software improvements which allow the pilot to retarget the impact point of the missile during the terminal phase of attack (about the last five miles).
It is planned to convert more than 500 SLAM missiles to the SLAM-ER configuration between FY 1997 and FY 2001.

Primary Function Anti-to-surface anti-ship missile long range, air-launched precision attack cruise missile
Service Navy and Air Force Navy
Contractor Boeing, ex McDonnell Douglas
Power Plant Teledyne Turbojet and solid propellant booster for surface and submarine launch
Thrust 660 pounds; 300 kg
sea-launched air-launched SLAM SLAM-ER
Length 15 feet;
4.57 meters
12 feet, 7 inches;
3.84 meters
14 feet, 8 inches;
4.47 meters
14 feet, 4 inches;
4.36 meters
Weight 1,470 pounds
661.5 kg
1,145 pounds
515.25 kg
629.55 kg
1,400 pounds
635.04 kg
Diameter 13.5 inches; 24.29 cm
Wingspan 3 feet; 91.44 cm 7.158 feet; 2,1819 meters
Range 60+ nautical miles;
69.06 statue miles;
111.12 km
150+ nautical miles;
172.74 miles;
277.95 km
Speed 531 mph; 855 km/h
Guidance System Sea-skimming cruise with mid-course guidance monitored by radar altimeter, active seeker radar terminal homing internal navigation system with GPS, infrared terminal guidance ring laser gyro Inertial Navigation System (INS) with multi-channel GPS; infrared seeker for terminal guidance with Man-in-the-Loop control data link from the controlling aircraft. Upgraded missiles will incorporate Automatic Target Acquisition (ATA)
Warhead Penetration high-explosive blast (488 pounds) titanium warhead
Unit Cost approx. $720,000 $500,000
Quantity Navy: 5,983
Air Force: 90
Platforms A-6; F-18; S-3; P-3; B-52H, Ships Ships
Date Deployed 1985 mid 1999

The Harpoon missile launchers

The Mk 141 Harpoon missile launchers joint the fleet in 1976 and today various surface combatants possess two of them.

In general one Mk 141 launcher consists of four tubes, but there are also versions with one or two ones.

With the commissioning of the PEGASUS-class (PHM 1 - class) a lighter version of the Mk 141 launcher deployed: the Mk 140.

Mk 140 Mk 141
Missiles 4 Harpoon 4 Harpoon
Weight (in tons) 4,1 5,9
Number of tubes 4 or 2 or 1 4 (usually) or 2 or 1
Installed aboard... PEGASUS-class PHMs CG, DD, DDG
Introduced 1976 1976

The Mk 140 and the Mk 141 launcher are not the only possibility to launch the Harpoon missile. The PERRY-class frigates for example are able to launch the Harpoon with their Mk 13 Standard missile launchers.

A Harpoon missile is seen in the split second before it hits a frigate.

Click here to view Harpoon Gallery

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