Harpoon is dead? Long live Harpoon!

With modern anti-ship missiles fielded by potential great power adversaries growing in size, speed and, most notably range from the 1980s benchmark (40-80 miles) a “missile gap” is seen as being real when you stack up legacy U.S./NATO AshMs such as Harpoon and Exocet against something like a Russian 3M54 Club (with a 400 nm range potential) or a Chinese CJ-10 (which could have a significantly longer reach).

This is why the big push to bring back a maritime strike variant of the Tomahawk (the TASM) and rush fielding of the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile (NSM), the latter of which has a range on some profiles stretching out to 300nm, to replace Harpoon the short term.

With that being said, others are still buying hundreds of Harpoons, and SLAM-ERs– the land-attack version of the missile– for more near-term use. Specifically, Saudi Arabia, which is in an increasingly drawn-out conflict with Iranian proxies on the Arabian Peninsula, and other overseas allies such as Brazil and Thailand that may need to still poke holes in things and can’t get on the TASM/NSM train yet.

Plus, in many cases, delivering a 500-pound warhead on target out to 80-100 nm is still, for the most part, useful.

From yesterday’s DOD contracts:

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is awarded a $1,971,754,089 firm-fixed-price contract to provide non-recurring engineering associated with the Stand-off Land Attack Missile – Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) obsolescence redesign effort as well as the production and delivery of 650 SLAM-ER missiles in support of the government of Saudi Arabia.  

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is awarded a $656,981,421 modification (P00014) to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-19-C-0016). This modification procures and delivers 467 Harpoon full-rate production Lot 91 Block II missiles and support equipment for various Foreign Military Sales customers… This modification procures four Block II missiles and support equipment for the government of Brazil, eight Block II missiles and support equipment for the government of Thailand, 53 Block II missiles and support equipment for the government of Qatar, 402 Block II missiles and support equipment for the government of Saudi Arabia, and support equipment for the governments of Japan, the Netherlands, India, and Korea. Work is expected to be complete by December 2026.  

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