Harpoon Block II is manufactured by Boeing Defence, Space & Security. Credit: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin V Cunningham.

Harpoon Block II is an over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile manufactured by Boeing Defence, Space & Security. It is the world’s superior anti-ship missile capable of performing land-strike and anti-ship missions.

The all-weather missile can engage a wide variety of land-based targets, including coastal defence sites, surface-to-air missile sites, aircraft, port or industrial facilities, and naval ships anchored in ports. More than 600 warships, 180 submarines, 12 types of aircraft and mobile land-based launch platforms are armed with Harpoon missiles.

Harpoon Block II features

The major system components of the Harpoon Block II missile include a booster, launch support structure and canisters, as well as command and launch system. The 500lb penetration, high-explosive blast warhead provides the missile with sufficient firepower to destroy coastal defence and surface-to-air missile sites, aircraft, port / industrial installations and docked ships.

The ship-launched Harpoon Block II has a length of 4.62m, while the length of the air-launched missile is 3.84m. The diameter of the missile is 34.3cm, while its weight varies between 526kg and 690.8kg based on the launch configuration.

Guidance and navigation

The missile employs GPS-aided inertial navigation system (INS) to strike targets on land and ships stationed in port. Harpoon Block II integrates the low-cost inertial measuring unit from the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) programme.

It also uses a software package, mission computer, integrated GPS/INS, and GPS antenna and receiver from the AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER).

The guidance control unit (GCU) of Harpoon Block II integrates a selective availability anti-spoofing module (SAASM) GPS receiver. The GCU can also be incorporated with a data link for network-centric operation.

The GPS/INS decimates midcourse guidance faults on the way to the target area while performing conventional anti-ship missions, including open-sea and near-land. The accurate navigation combined with improved launch system provides better discrimination of target vessels from islands and nearby land zones or other ships. The advanced features of Block II provide high hit probability against warships near to shore or travelling in narrow sea routes.

Harpoon Block II propulsion details

The missile is propelled by a Teledyne Turbojet engine / solid propellant booster providing a thrust of over 600lb (272.2kg). The propulsion system provides high subsonic speed and range of 124km.

Launch platforms for Block II missile

The multi-mission Block II can be launched from all Harpoon missile launch systems equipped with existing command and launch systems or the Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System (AHWCS).

The missile is deployed from submarines and surface ships such as fast patrol boats, destroyers and frigates. The aerial platforms include F/A-18, F-15, F-16, F-27, F-50, P-3, and S-3 aircraft. The Harpoon Block II missiles can also be launched from mobile land-based truck platforms.

Harpoon Block II orders and deliveries

Boeing delivered approximately 7,500 Harpoon and Harpoon Block II missiles to the US Navy and 29 allied nations as of 2016. The company received orders to produce 467 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II full-rate production Lot 91 anti-ship missiles for various foreign military sales (FMS) customers until 2026.

The first contract for Harpoon Block II was awarded in November 1998 and the first Harpoon Block II missile was delivered in 2001. Boeing was awarded a $20m contract to deliver Harpoon Block II missile retrofit kits for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in April 2004.

The contract for the delivery of Harpoon Block II and related materials for Japan, Pakistan and Australia was awarded in November 2005. Boeing delivered the first four Harpoon Block II missiles with a redesigned GCU to the US Navy for transfer to two countries under the FMS programme in June 2009. India and the US signed an FMS contract for the delivery of 24 Harpoon Block II missiles for the maritime strike squadron of the Indian Air Force in August 2010.

In July 2011, Boeing was awarded a $120m firm-fixed-price contract by the US Navy for the production of approximately 60 Lot 86 Harpoon missiles and associated systems for the US and six other countries. The deliveries began in August 2011 and were concluded by mid-2012. A $145.1m firm-fixed-price contract was awarded by the US Naval Air Systems Command for 90 Harpoon Block II missiles and associated hardware for the US and four foreign customers in June 2012. The contractual scope also included example and test variants of the SLAM ER.

A possible FMS of six Harpoon Block II missiles for the Mexican Navy was approved by the US in January 2018. Another possible sale of ten AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles to India was approved in April 2020 and the missiles are planned to be integrated onto the Indian Navy’s P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.