During some of the coldest days of the Cold War, some 40 years ago today, at 1128 on 6 September 1982 the Royal Danish Navy fregatten Peder Skram (F352) accidentally fired a newly-installed Harpoon anti-ship missile during maneuvers in the Kattegat some 10 nm northeast of the Zealand Odde.
The missile traveled 21 miles at a low level over the remarkably flat country, severing several power transmission lines before striking some trees in the Lumsås-Sønderstrand community, after which it detonated about 20 feet off the ground. The fireball and subsequent shock wave from its 488-pound warhead and remaining fuel destroyed four unoccupied summer cottages and damaged a further 130 buildings in the immediate vicinity but, as it was a weekday and summer had wound down, there were no casualties.
While an elderly couple saw it pass within about 300 feet of them, there were no casualties from the Harpoon
The incident has since gone down as the Hovsa-Missilet or “Oops Missile” and McDonnell-Douglas ultimately paid for the damages as the operating manuals for the Harpoon system at the time stated that a launch could only take place if the launch key was inserted into the system and thus the Danes believed they could run a missile drill without launching a warshot as the firing key was secured in the safe of the Skram’s skipper when the button was pressed.
As for Skram, the 2,755-ton frigate was retired from Danish service in 1990 after 26 years on the job and never had to fire her weapons in anger. She even once escorted a battleship on NATO maneuvers.
USS Iowa (BB-61) during an underway replenishment with the Danish frigate Peder Skram (F 352), left, and the West German destroyer Rommel (D 187) during the NATO exercise “Northern Wedding ’86”, on 1 September 1986. PHAN William Holck, USN – U.S. VIRIN: DN-SC-87-09436
She is currently a well-preserved museum ship at the Museet Skibene på Holmen in Copehhanegn– open during the summer.
Not bad looking at all…
And she still has her quad harpoon cans
The recent RIMPAC 2018 exercise saw two notable sinkex operations, the first, the old LST USS Racine we have covered already.
The second, the decommissioned OHP-class frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41), was sent to on 19 July to the bottom of waters some 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauai.
Her sad, final plunge:
One of the youngest of her class, ex-McClusky was an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate commissioned in December 1983 and decommissioned in January 2015. The ship was named for Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky, a naval aviator who led his squadrons of Douglass Dauntless dive bombers against a Japanese fleet during the famed attack on the island of Midway in June 1942. He went on to distinguish himself in subsequent actions during the war and again in the Korean War before retiring at the rank of rear admiral in 1956. The ship operated worldwide during her more than 30 years of service. During one deployment in 2002, her crew successfully intercepted a drug runner at sea hauling 75 bales of cocaine weighing nearly 4,000 pounds.
Notably, the first use of a sub-Harpoon in a generation was seen during the exercise when Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) loaded one of these unicorns and let it fly towards Racine.
The periscope footage, 30 secs:
Loading B-roll, 5 minutes:
30-sec compilation including the hit on Racine’s forward third:
In the end, though, there was one FFG-7 class vessel present at RIMPAC that had a better go of things. The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) participated on the other side of the gun line and on 2 August set sail back to Oz, intact.
Sailors load a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile on to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) as part of the biannual RIMPAC maritime exercise.
The 1970s era anti-ship missile is now in its most advanced version, Harpoon Block II+, and is being augmented by a program to field new and more advanced missiles, such as the AGM-158C LRASM and the Norwegian Joint Strike Missile. However, with those new missiles being air-or ship-launched, for subs looking to poke a hole in a ship, it is either Tomahawk or Harpoon, for now at least.
When envisioned back in the day, the Littoral Combat Ship idea, in its earliest “Streetfighter” concept, was a low-cost swarm of vessels capable of operating in shallow nearshore environments with a small crew and a small footprint. One of the big deals about these was the ability to “own” the area around them with anti-ship missiles. Park an LCS offshore, just over the horizon and away from the local warlord’s optically sighted anti-tank missiles, mortar and tube artillery on the beach, and it could run roughshod on the sea lanes. The thing is, LCS hasn’t had any anti-ship missiles so it couldn’t control anything beyond the under 9-mile reliable engagement distance of its 57mm popgun.
Well, with USS Coronado (LCS-4) at least the Navy has been working to fix that. She deployed last year with a single Harpoon and fired it (semi-successful) during RIMPAC 2016.
Now, it looks as if Coronado made good, hitting a surface target on 22 August with a little help from her embarked MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial system and MH-60S Seahawk helicopter. Also, in the below cleared image, she is carrying a four-pack of Harpoons, whereas last summer she only had one missile.
170822-N-GR361-082 PHILIPPINE SEA (Aug. 22, 2017) A harpoon missile launches from the missile deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) off the coast of Guam. Coronado is on a rotational deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, patrolling the region’s littorals and working hull-to-hull with partner navies to provide the U.S. 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples/Released)
From the Navy’s presser:
“LCS will play an important role in protecting shipping and vital U.S. interests in the maritime crossroads,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander, Task Force 73. “Its ability to pair unmanned vehicles like Fire Scout with Harpoon missiles to strike from the littoral shadows matters – there are over 50,000 islands in the arc from the Philippines to India; those shallow crossroads are vital world interests. Harpoon and Fire Scout showcase one of the growing tool combinations in our modular LCS capability set and this complex shot demonstrates why LCS has Combat as its middle name.”
When the LCS was first proposed under the Streetfighter concept back in the day, everyone looked at the idea and thought it had at least some merit, especially for sea control with a growing number of surface challenges from in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea. But sea control involves having something bigger than a 57mm popgun and some 25’s to punch a hole in something over-the-horizon.
Well it looked like in the latest RIMPAC exercise, an LCS has finally gotten a Harpoon in the air. Of course it looks like a limited installation (topside weight issues?) such as seen on the Hamilton-class Coast Guard cutters of the 1990s, but it is still a Harpoon.
160719-N-ZZ999-007 USS CORONADO (July 19, 2016) USS Coronado (LCS 4), an Independence-variant littoral combat ship, launches the first over-the-horizon missile engagement using a Harpoon Block 1C missile. Twenty-six nations, 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michaela Garrison/Released)
However, all may not be Harpoon forever.
On Monday Lockheed Martin completed the third of three test shots to prove that their air-launched 500-nm range Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) can be fired from a surface ship on the move, launching from a Mk41 installed on the ex-USS Paul Foster off Point Magu.
In other news, it seems like the target for the SINKEX was the recently retired OHP frigate USS Thach which took a hell of a lot of abuse as did USS Crommelin (FFG 37), who was Coronado‘s (missed) target. Rather a poetic statement come to think of it.
Meanwhile, the latest Independence-class LCS, USS Jackson, was the subject of explosive shock testing so serious that the USGS thought it was a 3.7m earthquake.