Boeing is trying to sell the Navy an upgraded anti-ship and land attack weapon designed to double the range of the service’s existing Harpoon.
The Harpoon Next-Generation is a sea-skimming land, submarine, air or surface- launched missile guided by GPS and inertial navigation systems to destroy a wide range of targets such as enemy ships, small boats and land targets.
It is engineered to fire from Navy submarines and ships such as destroyers, frigates, patrol boats and aircraft including the F/A-18, F-15, F-16 and P-3 surveillance plane. It can also fire from a mobile, land-based truck platform, Boeing officials said.
The advanced Harpoon will be offered in response to the Navy’s interest in acquiring a new, longer-range, over-the-horizon missile for its Littoral Combat Ship and new Frigate.
"With respect to the LCS/Frigate, we will resource to the requirements in order to increase lethality, looking at suitable options for an over-the-horizon, anti-surface ship capability. As always, we are committed to providing the best capability while balancing affordability in order to defeat the threat,” said Lt. J.G. Kat Dransfield, a Navy spokeswoman.
The Harpoon Next-Gen adds the prospect of improved guidance technology, a new engine and new warhead to the existing 15-foot long Navy Block II Harpoon through the use of an upgrade kit or new build effort. The technology changes the range of the weapon from 67 miles out to 134 nautical miles, said James Brooks, a Boeing director.
“Fundamentally it is adding more fuel to the weapon and going to a more fuel efficient engine. We are moving towards an alternate warhead. We’re looking at a couple of different warheads, including a 300-pound warhead that is smaller than the current warhead but still very effective,” Brooks added.
The new 300-pound class warhead, which is still being examined and refined by Boeing weapons developers, is optimized for anti-ship attacks, Brooks added. The new, smaller warhead will replace the existing 500-pound warhead on the current Navy Block II Harpoon.
Brooks described the new Harpoon Next-Gen engine as a more fuel-efficient off-the-shelf engine with electronic fuel controls.
Boeing has delivered more than 7,500 Harpoon and Harpoon Block II missiles to customers around the world. About one-half of those were delivered to the U.S. Navy, Boeing officials said. The firm hopes to draw upon the existing inventory for upgrades because Harpoon Next-Gen uses the same size, dimensions and form factors as the existing original missile.
This extended range can be provided in a kit for an existing inventory of missiles. It can also be provided as a new-build procurement. It leverages the infrastructure that already exists with the U.S. Navy so no new infrastructure is needed and there is not a need for a new launcher or additional equipment,” Brooks explained.
The Navy’s current variant of the weapon is called Block II Harpoon used by the U.S. and 29 international partners. The Harpoon is deployed on 12 different aircraft types, 630 ships and 190 submarines worldwide, Brooks added.
“It allows our warfighters to address any majority of targets that are out there -gives them a stand-off allows them to address new threats,” Elizabeth Kluba, vice president weapons and missile systems, Boeing Global Strike.
Boeing is in the early phases of planning a demonstration of Harpoon Next-Gen with the Navy of the new weapon sometime next year. Developers of the weapon said a new kind of guidance technology or seeker could be added to the weapon if desired by the Navy. Also, Boeing officials said additional data links and vertical launch technologies could be added as well.
The new weapon could be ready for service by 2017, company officials said.
“There is an absolutely critical near-term capability that has been identified by Navy leadership. This is our response to that near term need that has been identified. It is available very quickly to the market in a very affordable fashion,” Klube said.
-- Kris Osborn can be reached at Kris.Osborn@military.com