Home » Foreign Forces » VIDEO: Navy May Bring Back Harpoon Missiles on Attack Subs After Successful SINKEX; RIMPAC Also Highlights Ground-to-Ship Strike Capability

VIDEO: Navy May Bring Back Harpoon Missiles on Attack Subs After Successful SINKEX; RIMPAC Also Highlights Ground-to-Ship Strike Capability

Sailors load a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile on to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) on July 3, 2018. US Navy Photo

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM – The Navy may once again arm its attack submarines with the Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile, after a sub-launched Harpoon performed well during a sinking exercise this month in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018 exercise.

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) fired a Harpoon at the ex-USS Racine (LST-1191) during the first of two SINKEX events in RIMPAC this month. That shot marked the first time a Harpoon had been fired from a U.S. submarine in more than 20 years, and Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Submarine Force Rear Adm. Daryl Caudle said he expects that the cruise missile will be added back into the SSN’s regular armament.

“The old guys like me actually were on ships that had Harpoons. So it has been a long time since we’ve actually had it onboard our ships,” the admiral joked during a July 25 interview in his office in Pearl Harbor. He said the missile was “designed predominantly to go against Russian ships and their surface action groups – Cold War – from our submarine force.” But as that threat declined and modernization dollars were needed elsewhere, the Harpoons went out of favor.

“We thought we could get by with our heavyweight torpedo, our advanced capability (ADCAP) Mk 48 torpedo, because we thought the predominant threat at the time when that decision was made was submarines, instead of needing the standoff distance of an anti-ship cruise missile. We took those missiles and, like we do so well in our Navy, we shelved them and thought we may need to bring them back.”

As the global threats the Navy faces have evolved, leadership decided about a year ago that it was time to pull those old Harpoons back off the shelves.

“Today’s highly capable navies and adversary countries, the competitive countries we’re in great power competition with, have extremely good surface ships with very capable missile systems themselves. So to be able to actually improve our lethality at ranges much greater than the Mk 48 torpedo, we want to actually bring back an anti-ship cruise missile,” Caudle said.
“The way to bring back that in a phased way was to basically go to our Naval Undersea Warfare Center, NUWC, and have them reconstitute the capability, to build the software necessary to use our existing combat control system and talk to that Harpoon cruise missile. Olympia was chosen because we knew she was going to be part of RIMPAC. … We decided to shoot for the 2018 RIMPAC to test the Harpoon cruise missile system again. So this has been at least a year in the making. The folks doing the software coding were working hard up in Newport to get that system built, that coding built. The guys onboard the squadron here, Submarine Squadron 7 that owns the Oly (Olympia), working hard on that ship to practice the tactics, techniques and procedures to shoot the Harpoon; had to bring those back out of the mothballs as well to actually know the language that we speak to prepare for firing and actually shooting the weapon. So had to dust those procedures off.”

What happened next was partly a great performance due to hard work by the submarine community, and partly a serendipitous set of events.

With two Harpoons loaded – one as a backup – Olympia “got in position on the range at PMRF (Pacific Missile Range Facility), which is over off of Kauai. We thought we were going to have to shoot second, and as luck turned out and I was very thrilled, the Air Force mission which was to shoot a LRASM, a long-range anti-ship missile, they got delayed, so we got to shoot first. We shot the Harpoon perfectly, went into cruise and hit the ex-Racine, which is an LST, dead center,” Caudle said of the July 12 SINKEX.
“The beautiful part of this is, the Oly was not expected to shoot the torpedo too. They had been scheduled for the next hulk (decommissioned ship) to shoot the Mk 48, but the way that things unfold in real world, the shooters changed that day, so Oly got tasked about mid-day to go and actually shoot an ADCAP also. … So we got to move into position and actually then shoot the heavyweight torpedo. That torpedo, again, a warshot, worked perfectly, went out there and did its job and honed in on the Racine, broke its keel, and a couple hours later it was on the bottom. Our torpedo is an extraordinary weapon, it really is.

Harpoon fired from USS Olympia on July 12, 2018. US Navy Photo

“So the interesting part is, you can see kind of almost a tactic there that I think is important that we got to practice just by happenstance: shooting a long-range shot and then move in for the close-range shot,” the admiral concluded.

Though the decision for if and how to bring back the Harpoon missile to the attack sub fleet is out of his hands – leaders back in Washington will work through that process – Caudle said “no question” the missile shot was a success and “from my perspective, it worked flawlessly.”

The undersea warfare directorate (OPNAV N97), the Program Executive Office for Submarines, NUWC and others will now study the shot, ensure that it did in fact meet all criteria, “and then there will be a decision made about how to phase that weapon back in and to what extent we’ll phase it back in,” he said.
“So that’s a decision that’s yet to be made, but the shot by the Oly will inform that decision.”

Depending on what N97 and the PEO find, Caudle said there could be another Harpoon test shot if another aspect of its performance needed to be validated, or engineers needed to validate the interoperability between the missile and a different iteration of combat system software. But, he said, “I would say what we learned from this test would be sufficient to field it, from my perspective.”

Members of the Western Artillery of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force launch a surface-to-ship missile (SSM) from the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, July 12, toward decommissioned ex-USS Racine (LST 1191), positioned at sea . The SSM was shot in conjunction with the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from 17th Field Artillery Brigade, headquarters of the U.S. Army’s Multi Domain Task Force Pilot Program, in support of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. This was the first time U.S. Army ground forces have participated in a sinking exercise during RIMPAC. US Army photo.

Additionally, the SINKEX that sent Racine to the bottom of the Pacific also proved out a ground-to-ship missile capability that has been in the works for several years. Both the U.S. Army and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force shot at Racine from ashore in Hawaii, with the Japanese firing a surface-to-ship missile and the Army firing a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from a launcher on a Palletized Load System. This was the first time ground forces had ever participated in a SINKEX at RIMPAC.

“When you normally think of a SINKEX you think of ships shooting other ships kind if thing. But we’ve now gotten to the point we have capabilities where Army and the JGSDF both have the ability to shoot a surface-to-surface missile from ground to ocean in a maritime environment. And that becomes a big deal, so to coordinate the maritime environment we need to incorporate the multi-domain task force of the U.S. Army into this, as well as the JGSDF,” Vice Adm. John Alexander, commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet who led RIMPAC, said in a July 20 press conference.

Eric Sayers, who previously served as a special assistant to the Commander at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and is now an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said this year’s SINKEX was important for several reasons, and showed significant growth in Pacific theater capabilities in recent years.

“First, and perhaps most importantly, you have a Japan that is willing to publicly display their advanced land-based, anti-ship capabilities alongside U.S. forces. This should not be overlooked and it is really the result of the leadership of Japan’s Chief of Defense, Admiral Kawano. When Japan was invited to join this effort last year, it was Kawano who helped ensure the Ground Self-Defense Force took part. This is a great demonstration of what the future of alliance cooperation can look like,” Sayers told USNI News.
“Second, you have a U.S. Army that is slowly but steadily embracing this land-based, anti-ship mission that just a few years ago they wanted nothing to do with. In fact, despite the role it could play in deterrence and warfighting in the Pacific as well as elsewhere, it was shunned openly as a costly and dated mission. It was only after the determination of key individuals at [U.S. Army Pacific], [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command], [Strategic Capabilities Office], and PACOM that the argument was won and we are now moving in the direction you see on display in Hawaii. This is an example of the type of innovation in military warfighting concepts that are only possible when motivated officers and civilians, often with minority views, can make a compelling argument about the future of war and successfully maneuver a bureaucratic path forward.”

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) on March 16, 2018. US Navy Photo

Sayers added that, in sum, the two SINKEX events at RIMPAC showed a “multi-axis strike capability” the U.S. is developing and could field in a few years. He noted it was just earlier this decade, when Adm. Robert Willard led PACOM from 2009 to 2012, that PACOM “was sending urgent operational needs statements back to Washington for an anti-ship weapon.”

“Today, this SINKEX is showing the Congress, our allies, and the Chinese that we have air, ground, surface, and undersea options for the anti-ship mission. We aren’t there yet, but we are slowly moving in the right direction,” Sayers said.

The Racine SINKEX also included a Harpoon shot by a Royal Australian Air Force P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which was the first time the Australian plane had participated in a RIMPAC SINKEX.

The second SINKEX put ex-USS McClusky (FFG-41), an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, at the bottom of the ocean much faster than anticipated. The Singapore Navy shot two Harpoon missiles at the frigate, and “typically if you shoot a Harpoon and it hits above the waterline it’ll punch a hole and blow up but it won’t sink a ship; theirs just happened to hit at the waterline and the ship started sinking about halfway through the event, so there were some countries that didn’t get to shoot their missiles and weapons, but for the most part the SINKEXs have been a success.”

In all, six Harpoons were successfully shot between the two SINKEX events, according to manufacturer Boeing.

  • It is far a new revelation and the Chinese would have to have been incredibly incompetent to not know.

  • So my question is, is it worth it? Harpoon is an aging weapon that is fairly easily defeated by modern air defense systems. While carrying a few missiles will give a sub some more options, it will also mean fewer of the incredibly lethal Mk48 torpedoes. It seems to me the better option would be to prioritize the sub fleet for the new maritime strike Tomahawks since they can be loaded in the VLS.

    • NEC338x

      Who would have thought. You punch a hole at the waterline with a hulk that has had its doors removed/welded open, and it goes to the bottom. Re-start the production lines!!!

      • Duane

        The sinking, as explained in the post, was not expected, and is not why the Harpoons will be redeployed on our SSNs. They are being considered for redeployment on the boats because they provide a much longer standoff range than a Mk 48 torpedo.

        ASCMs generally cannot be relied upon to sink a surface warship, but they can easily knock such a ship out of the battle. A single lightweight Exocet (warhead of about 150 pounds) detonated inside the hull of the USS Stark, a OHP frigate, in the late 80s, killed 37 sailors, wounded dozens more, and while the ship did not sink and remained under power, the repair bill slightly exceeded the cost to build a brand new OHP.

        The 488-pound warhead on a Harpoon is more than three times the explosive power of the Exocet that totaled the Stark.

        • NEC338x

          Yes, there needs to be improved standoff capabilities for our SSNs. The PLAN subs have YJ-18Bs with 50% larger warhead and twice the range. Are refurbished UGM-84s better than nothing – sure.

          I certainly appreciate your taking the time to explain the effects of the Exocets on the Stark. Not everyone that reads USNI is a veteran, and an educated electorate is necessary for lively dialog. Real world examples of ASCM damage is arguably useful in different ways than a SINKEX. Going back to the 70’s you probably have three dozen examples of attacks with multiple ASCMs.

          Specifically to the Harpoon, you have the sinking of the Sahand during Operation Praying Mantis. The three Harpoons from the Joseph Strauss did serious damage to the superstructure, especially the one aft of the bridge which eliminated effective command of the vessel. The sinking was, of course, accomplished with a Mk 87 Walleye II and half dozen Mk 83s. You punch enough holes and integrity is eventually lost.

          • Duane

            Yes, better weapons than the old Block 1 Harpoons are needed, but the Harpoons are just one option. The Tomahawk can also be torpedo launched, and Boeing already got a contract a year ago to mount a new sensor package for tracking ships that should be available within a couple years, and its 1,000 pound warhead and greater than 1,000 mile range would be a big step up. Also NSM can be integrated to torpedo launches too.

    • DaSaint

      Yes, it’s worth it. It provides additional options. Each loadout should include at least 6 Harpoons, to complement the ADCAPS and VL TLAMs. The maritime strike Tomahawks are a ways away, and are slow to boot. But still valuable.

    • Duane

      Of course it is worth it to provide a long standoff range anti-surface ship capability to our SSNs, no question.

      A full loadout on a 688 class is 37 weaps in some combination of Mk 48s, Harpoons, etc. Plenty of capability to haul a diversity of weaps.

      In the Cold War days our SSNs all carried a mix of anti-shipping weapons, including Mk 48, Mk 37 electric torpedoes, SubRoc ASW missiles with nuclear warhead, and eventually the Harpoon. Plus anti-shipping and land attack Tomahawks, all of which fit the standard 21 in torpedo tubes.

  • Ed L

    Harpoon a good weapon being slow and old. It might slip in while the enemy is looking at the higher speed weapons

  • RunningBear

    Harpoon Blk.II – 488lb. warhead, 67nmi. range, 14″ tube launch; $1.2M ea.
    Tomahawk Blk.IV – 1,000lb. warhead, 900nmi. range, 20″ VLS; $1.87M ea.
    Mark 48 CBASS – 650lb. warhead, 63 [email protected], 21″ tube launch; $3.8M ea.

    • There is a tube launched version of Tomahawk as well if more than 12 per sub are needed.

      • RunningBear


        Anti-ship weapons:

        LRASM – 1,000lb. warhead, 300nmi. range, 21″? VLS; $1.0M ea.
        SM-6 – 140lb?. warhead, 130nmi. range, 21″ VLS; $4.0M ea.
        JSM – 276lb. warhead, 100nmi. range, 20″? VLS?/ ALCM; free???
        JASSM-ER – 1,000lb. warhead, 500nmi. range, ALCM; $1.4M ea.
        JSOW-ER – <1,000lb. warhead, 300nmi. range, 13" AL; $700K ea.
        SDB-II – 105lb. warhead, 70nmi. range, 7" AL; $128K ea.

        etc., etc., etc.

        • Bubblehead

          LRASM range is classified and 300NM is a rough estimate. Don’t be surprised if its range exceeds 300.

          And SM6 range is far greater than 130nm. About double. I think its price is a lot closer to $3M. It should start to drop with full production and shortly export orders hopefully.

          The new updated Thomahawks are getting little publicity but will have a 1k mile range with ASM capability. Perfect sub weapon for land attack & or ship attack.

          • Duane

            The standard engagement range for SM-6 is for its designed role as a high altitude aircraft and ballistic missile interceptor where the air is very thin. For near sea level missions against surface ships, its range and airspeed will be much reduced. The same thing applies to any missile or aircraft.

      • sferrin

        Thought I read somewhere where the Block IV is incompatible with tube-launch.

        • There is a tube launched Block IV. However, only 65 of them were procured in FY08-10.

          • Duane

            The Navy fired Tomahawks from torpedo tubes back in the 1980s.

    • sferrin

      Now add Shipwreck, Sandbox, Vulcan, Brahmos, PL-12, etc. etc. etc. to that list. Harpoon is pretty much a toy by comparison to what the other side is currently fielding (not just blowing the dust off one round for a test).


    Good job Singapore. I wonder how many Harpoons would be required to sink Russia’s peter the great cruiser. That ship is close to 30000 tons displacement. Two MK48’s will surly break it if detonated simultaneously under the haul .The current warhead on harpoon is inadequate to kill a ship of that size in a single strike unless they put a small one KT nuke warhead specifically for killing big Pete.

    • Duane

      With ASCMs a sinking is never the expected result, but can happen under the right conditions. But a 488 pound warhead that detonates in the hull just below the bridge and/or anywhere near CIC or the magazine is going to knock any warship out of action for a very long time (1 year+).

      A 150 pound warhead from a lightweight air launched Exocet managed to hit the hull the Stark just forward of the bridge, and killed and wounded a large proportion of the crew, “totaled” the vessel (cost more to repair than a new ship), and didn’t even impact the ship’s vitals.

      The Harpoon warhead is more than three times the explosive power of that missile.

      What is critical is having ASCMs that can hit a particular designated point on the target with precision. NSM uses an imaging IR sensor to discriminate between and on targets, and has a CEP of just 2.0 feet. That is what maximizes damage. The old Block 1 Harpoons aren’t so capable, but the new Block 2s will be competitive with NSM.

    • Phaeton

      “Good job Singapore. I wonder how many Harpoons would be required to sink Russia’s peter the great cruiser”
      About one hundred and fifty,assuming complete lack of escort.
      Now,how many Harpoon HITS is more relevant question.

  • ElmCityAle

    I’m amazed and impressed those teams were able to dig up the old software and integrate it in some new form with the current weapons control system on that sub. I’m also amazed the old missile worked at all.

  • ew_3

    Anything that increases the lethality of an SSN is a good thing.
    It’s one more thing for the bad guys to worry about.
    The harpoon today. The Naval Strike Missile tomorrow.

    • LRASM is far more likely to get a submarine launched variant than NSM. The subs have the space and weight to accomodate the larger weapon so why settle for the less capable one?

      • Duane

        LRASM can be fitted but would have to go in the VLS tubes (on some 688s and all Virginias) as it is too large to fit a 21 in torpedo tube.

        Harpoon Block 1s, NSMs, and soon to be operational Harpoon Block 2s can be fired from any SSN once integrated, and without taking up VLS tubes that can handle much larger missiles.

        • As far as I know, the exact dimensions of LRASM have never been released. But Mk 41 VLS cells and torpedo tubes are both 21 inches in diameter and 21 feet long, so there is nothing preventing the development of a tube launched LRASM and no reason for a sub to carry smaller weapons.

          Also, NSM is the one that would be almost impossible to integrate with submarines as it requires a launcher rail, and the Navy currently has no plans to buy more Harpoons as Block II+ is just an upgrade kit.

          • NavySubNuke

            It will certainly be interesting to see if the Navy goes through the trouble and pain of cannisterizing and certifying the LRASM for underwater launch. As you point out with NSM – just because it can fit doesn’t mean it can launch.
            Getting the missile to travel through the water column correctly and breach the surface in the correct attitude for the kickoff booster to light off (assuming that, like TLAM, it uses one) and transition it to flight is a non-trivial engineering challenge.

          • Duane

            Yes, the external dimensions of LRASM are published online at many sites. 25-in max lateral dimension (controlled by vertical fin height), total length 14 feet plus booster for surface or subsurface launch.

            A NSM is significantly smaller and lighter than a Harpoon, so all it would need is a tube adapter to fire from a torpedo tube. You can bet that is coming … just this week Raytheon declared that it intends to completely replace Harpoon in every platform in which it is currently configured … that includes ship deck launchers, torpedo tubes, truck mounted ground launchers, and air launched. Whether Raytheon actually wins those competitions in the future, only time will tell. I would not bet against them.

          • A 25 inch body is simply impossible as the Mk41 VLS (from which LRASM has successfully been launched) can only accomodate a 21 inch diameter missile. The body length is also meaningless since the booster is necessary for ship or submarine launch.

            Note that the creation of an air launched NSM required almost a total redesign to create the JSM. Its rail launch system just isn’t very versatile.

          • Duane

            No, NSM does not require a rail … it can launch out of a standard Mk 141 tube launcher, or from a newer rectangular cannister launcher that Raytheon manufactures – it is not a rail launcherm

            The 25-in dimension is the number reported for LRASM. Mk 41 VLS can accommidate up to 28 in width, so can take LRASM.

          • No and no. NSM does not fit in a Mk 141 and requires its own special launcher.

            The Mk 57 PVLS on Zumwalt has a hole diameter of 28″ while the Mk 41 is 23″ – however those numbers do not include the missile canisters, which reduce max weapon diameter by an inch or two.

          • Duane

            You are confused. Raytheon manufactures a cannister deck launcher for NSM, it features rectangular cells rather than cylindrical, but not rails.

            The Navy had to redesign a replacement for the Mk 141 deck launcher to accommodate LRASM, which will not fit the Mk 141 tube launcher because it is oversized.

            The specific lateral dimensions of the LRASM which is in the shape of a rounded, squashed triangle, are 550 mm wide (21.65 in) by 450 mm high (17.7 in) … but the vertical tail fin is non-retractable and is 25 inches from its top to the belly. It won’t fit in either a 21 in torpedo tube or or a 23 in VLC cell, whether cylindrical or rectangular cell, unless the vertical tailfin is somehow modified.

            The Navy is developing a new canister deck launcher for LCS and other ships that will accommodate LRASM and any smaller missile, to replace or supersede the old Mk 141 tube launcher, which won’t fit LRASM. It was tested successfully on LRASM a year ago at White Sands, next up is at sea testing on a warship. It was developed by LM under contract with the Navy.

          • The rails I am talking about for NSM are not Mk 13 / Mk 26 style rails, but rather an internal rail that extends from the front of the box launcher as part of the firing cycle. It’s quite obvious in videos and pictures of NSM launches.

            There shouldn’t be any question that LRASM doesn’t fit in a Mk 141 given that launcher was designed for the 14 inch by 15 foot Harpoon. But I’m not sure why you are still arguing that LRASM doesn’t fit in a VLS cell given that there is literally video of it doing exactly that. There is a cutaway model on the Lockheed site that appears to show that it does indeed have a folding tail.

            I don’t know where you are getting the LRASM dimensions from, but they seem plausible. If true, the missile may indeed be slightly too large to fit in a torpedo tube. However, that would be a massive oversight on the part of the Navy.

          • Duane

            I am not arguing that LRASM does not fit in a Mk 41 VLS, as it was made to fit. What I did was respond to your statement that nobody publicly knows the dimensions of LRASM, which is not true .. 15 minutes of internet search will provide several sites that post them … and that the vertical dimension of the tail fin is 25 inches, which is greater than what you say is the largest dimension the Mk 41 will accommodate.

            Meaning that to fit LRASM in a Mk 41 tube requires that the vertical tail fin be modified. Neither the Navy nor LM has described how that was done. Best guesses would either be that the shape of the vertical fin was altered (made lower but longer) or it was possibly hinged, with the vertical fin to pop back out after leaving the VLS.

            But the guys that know aren’t saying, at least to my knowledge.

          • Bubblehead

            You do realize the key word you mentioned is “Raytheon said.” Of course Raytheon said this, its their freaking missiles they want to sell. But unless they are going to donate free missiles to the USN, they will need the funding.

          • Duane

            Uhh … what are you arguing over? I wrote that Raytheon announced their intention to own the ASCM market formerly owned by Boeing’s Harpoon. If and when the Navy decides to purchase ASCMs for SSNs – which will likely happen – there will be a competition, and the best product will win. NSM already fits and launches from a standard Mk 141 deck mounted tube launcher (contrary to ARCNAV, no, NSM does not require a rail), which means it will also fit a standard 21 in torpedo tube. Same as Harpoon.

      • Alexander Karghin

        “LRASM is far more likely to get a submarine launched variant”

        LRASM is a long-range missile. Submarines can’t provide mid-course corrections for them. The missile is subsonic, so , by the time it’ll be on the spot the target will have already gone.

        • With a range of 60-100nm, that’s already a problem with Harpoon and NSM and part of why I asked if it is worth putting AShM’s on subs.

          However, LRASM is fully networked so it could accepted mid-course corrections from other platforms – P-8, F-35, MQ-4, etc…

          • Duane

            Don’t listen to him, he is a Russian troll.

          • Alexander Karghin

            “However, LRASM is fully networked so it could accepted mid-course corrections from other platforms – P-8, F-35, MQ-4, etc…”

            I am not sure it will be fully networked with all those platforms, but, let’s assume it will be, or let’s assume it already is(which I don’t believe yet), how it’s going to help to a submarine which is supposed to operate deep inside enemy waters,in the first place, right? For those subs that have to escort carrier battle groups LRASM is not much needed at all, because their function is to guard CBG from enemy subs,not from surface ships, right? And besides, in that case, surface ships of the CBG will be able to launch multiple LRASMs themselves. Third point, who in his right mind is going to approach CBG on surface ships? Russians have tactics of the launches of salvos of supersonic, long range ASMs on CBGs, from submarines(from absolutely safe distance), or firing very long-range ASMs from strategic bombers. I guess, Chinese, and others ,also wouldn’t come close 1000+ miles to carrier battle groups. Networking is good mostly for air and anti-air combats, but not for submarine warfare.

          • I think you are significantly overestimating just how large the oceans are. South Korea to Vietnam is only 1500 nm and there are a large number of potential land bases within 500 nm of the Chinese coast. The North Atlantic is even more constrained. Thus, it is highly unlikely the a submarine will be out of reach of supporting air assets, especially as stealth aircraft can get quite close to enemy coasts undetected.

            It is also interesting to note that the very long range submarine launched Russian AShM’s that you mention have in fact relied on aircraft for midcourse updates since the 1970’s.

            Further, the PLAN is heavily reliant on surface launched missiles. Its current division of AShM launchers is roughly 870 on surface ships, 430 on submarines, and 360 on aircraft. Given these numbers, it is highly likely that the PLAN would attempt to use surface ships against our carriers.

          • .Hugo.

            actually for destroying a carrier, it will be the land based missile force’s job. all your mentioned platforms will mainly be used to confuse and to overwhelm your escorts’ air defense systems, or to pick on the them after their magazines are emptied.

          • It is rather difficult for land based missiles to force an engagement against ships – especially when they are out ranged several times over by TLAM and carrier air. Thus, it is highly unlikely they would come into play before the PLAN and PLANAF (not to mention the land based missiles’ C2 systems) had been seriously attritted.

            It would also be rather difficult for the 1600 Chinese air and sea based AShM’s to empty USN magazines when even a small (4 escort) CSG carries around 400 SAM’s. That would suggest that just 5 of the USN’s 11 CSG’s would capable of absorbing the entire PLAN air and sea AShM force – assuming that every single PLAN platform is operational and launches an effective attack before suffering any damage and that American CAP and ECM fail to defeat any incoming missiles. Put in a more realistic scenario, just 2-3 reinforced CSG’s would probably be sufficient to defeat the PLAN AShM force.

          • .Hugo.

            actually the area which the missile force has to take care of is well covered by surveillance from space to under the sea, with time interval of less than 30 minutes. the multiple warheads being launched will seek for their own targets too at the approach stages.

            your calculation may not be correct, for there are decoys and jamming, and each incoming missile requires 3 to 4 interceptor to ensure interception.

            and can the u.s. really deploy 5 strike groups to the chinese waters without being detected?how will cap be useful when it is not facing incoming jets but high speed warheads and other high speed asm from multiple directions? what good is the csg when its supply ships are destroyed first?

          • Alexander Karghin

            “you are significantly overestimating just how large the oceans are”
            Am I?? I guess, rather… some people significantly overestimating the ability of modern technologies. They lost completely,without any trace,that big commercial MH-370 air liner, and not in the middle of the ocean, but near populated areas. Do you think there were American bases (or ships) with big radars nearby? I don’t believe much in the networking at all.I mean, it’s a good concept but only to a some degree, after which it’ll have so many limitations, that it’ll become more detrimental rather than helpful.

            “South Korea to Vietnam is only 1500 nm”
            Only??? I beg you pardon?
            “large number of potential land bases within 500 nm of the Chinese coast”
            I guess the key word here is ‘potential’. BTW, the worse would be for those ‘potential’ bases, in case of war with China, because they’ll be destroyed first.
            “it is highly unlikely that a submarine will be out of reach of supporting air assets”
            Exactly the opposite! I don’t know man, what business, actually,US submarines will have inside the US military assets’ networking. It’s quite the other way around – they are supposed to operate deep inside enemy networking. INDEPENDENTLY, as Duane has just put in his recent answer to me.That’s been a rare case when we concur.
            “Russian AShM’s that you mention have in fact relied on aircraft for midcourse updates since the 1970’s.”
            Quite wrong. Russians have a unique satellite naval targeting system Legenda/Liana.It’s aim is to help to observe,track and target adversaries’ Navy assets around the globe, 24/7. Russians had it since like 1970s. And yes,there are special aircraft to double the system but they are supposed to help mostly to ground assets (shore missile batteries and bombers).
            “870 on surface ships, 430 on submarines…. it is highly likely that the PLAN would attempt to use surface ships against our carriers.”
            Submarines have a specific aim- to kill carriers (or damage) . Surface ships are for all other various types of battles,but,you know, in a war,everything can happen.When Russians didn’t already have artillery guns,in autumn of 1941,they used bottles with Molotov cocktail and 14,5mm rifles to stop Wehrmacht tank, just 20km from Moscow.

          • Duane

            Most US SSNs operate independently most of the time. Only a small handful of CSG are at sea at any given time.

          • Alexander Karghin

            “Most US SSNs operate independently most of the time”

            Exactly. That was my point! It means the Navy can’t ‘network’ them, most of the time (even if such possibility would exit in the first place).

          • Duane

            Subs can be and are networked. They maintain radio contact with the fleet and aircraft as needed. Operating independently means that most of the time they are not attached to a strike group. Again, with only 3 or 4 CSGs deployed at sea at any time, that occupies only a like number of deployed SSNs. Unlike the Russians we still have a large force of SSNs (the current count is 48) most of which when deployed operate independently but in continuous radio contact even when submerged.

          • Alexander Karghin

            “Subs can be and are networked. They maintain radio contact with the fleet…”

            I suppose you understand that ‘radio contact’ and ‘networked warfare’ isn’t, actually, the same (by far), or do you? Submarines operate 99% of the time,especially inside adverse(enemy) waters, in passive mode, and can maintain radio contact for a very brief period of time, mostly(or only) to receive intel, not to get networked. Do not confuse peacetime and real war situations, like many Americans do.

            “Unlike the Russians we still have a large force of SSNs (the current count is 48)”

            Yes, but unlike the US, Russia has a lot of diesel submarines, which, when close to the shores, are much more dangerous than SSNs, because they are complete black holes. And, btw, Russian diesel subs can fire long range, supersonic AShMs also!

        • Duane

          You are the same Russian dude who argued with me on this subject at another website.

          You are wrong, period.

          The Harpoon does not require mid course target data from the submarine that fires it, and the old Harpoon Block 1s do not even accept mid course data (the Block 2+ does, and it is expected to go IOC in about a year).

          All the Harpoon needs is initial target data. The missile flies at a little over 9 nm a minute, and has a maximum effective range of 67 nm, and flying at a low altitude of about 30 to 50 feet, its own radar will pick up a surface ship target from at least 20-25 nm mi range, meaning it will have travelled no more than 5 minutes before its own radar sensor takes over. In 5 minutes even a very fast surface ship – at 30 kts – will travel no more than 2.5 nm, meaning it will have barely moved and be easily picked up by the Harpoon’s radar.

          That is with worst case scenario. Easy peasy for a Harpoon from a sub. All that is needed is a good target fix transmitted most likely via aircraft to the shooting sub.

          Mid course updates are only needed on much longer range shots, such as a submarine launched Tomahawk ASM (now in the development pipeline from Boeing) or LRASM (VLS launched from SSNs so equipped) with max ranges measured in hundreds of miles. The initial and mid course up datetarget data can come from any aircraft, from MH-60, MQ-8, MQ-4, F/A 18, F-35, and any Air Force birds, or land radars, or ship radars that are networked with the sub via secure digital comms. All of our very long range ASCMs feature 2-way comms as well as extensive sensors.

          LRASM even has a “loiter mode” where it can go up high, gather long range sensor data, and loiter at a low fuel burn until it sees a valuable target, and/or is directed to go to a specific target by an aircraft or AEGIS or COMBATTS21-equipped ship.

          • Alexander Karghin

            “The Harpoon does not require mid course target data from the submarine that fires it…”

            Duane, are you blind??? Do you look, at all, what you are answering to??? Who talks about Poons? Look back at my post. My point was about LRASM. Your main issue is situational awareness and comprehension of rudimentary texts, right?
            “LRASM even has a “loiter mode” where it can go up high”
            Absolutely! It can go up, of course, as high as it’s pleased but…. It that case it’ll be detected by more powerful enemy ship’s radars way too sooner than its active seeker will find the target. I guess you remember, yet, what I taught you(on BD) – missile’s active seeker is capable to ‘see’ the target only from 30-40km, no farther. Ship’s radar will detect it from hundreds km.

          • Duane

            At BD you tried in vain to argue that US SSNs cannot now and never did deploy ASCMs for lack of radar data … you got shut down on that, so then you switched to trying to argue that very long range ASCMs don’t work on US SSNs.

            BS – Radar detection range goes up to hundreds of miles at high altitudes (20K ft) with current radars on missiles or other aircraft. Radar detection range is a function of height of radar sensor and height of target, and sensitivity of the radar.

            LRASM has secure 2-way digital comms, can get mid course updates from any off platform sensor, and it has very good sensors too, both active and passive.

          • Alexander Karghin

            “US SSNs cannot now and never did deploy ASCMs for lack of radar data”

            Actually, I never said THAT. Stop making up things again. Look back at my posts, to you and to raemlan, and you’ll find precisely what my claims were(in case you’ve solved your comprehension issues). My point was that long-range AShMs, on subs,are useless without satellite naval targeting system, on a par with Russian Legenda/Liana, and that short range AShMs(Harpoons) are not that much different in range compared to Mk48, but have an order of magnitude less destructive power than torpedoes, hence it’s quite dangerous for a sub to fire them on a potent enemy, because launching Harpoon is a rather noisy affair. It’ll only reveal the location of the sub. And once the sub is revealed it loses all advantage, and it’s practically dead, because the range is short.

  • proudrino

    More than a few former Chief Engineers of the Racine are going to make this video a favorite.

  • proudrino

    That’s assuming battle commences during the very small window the LCS is operational and not in an extended maintenance period. Oh! and that it has the right “module” installed to do the job.

  • Duane

    Good to see this happen, long overdue.

    My old 637 class boat, the USS Gurnard SSN 662 did the very first Harpoon shoot from a submerged SSN back in the summer of 1978 … the Navy provided video to the media and the shoot made the national evening news that day.

    We now have better ASCMs than the Harpoon, and one of them, Naval Strike Missile, is smaller than Harpoon so it should be capable of being deployed out of torpedo tubes too. Boeing is also finishing up development on an upgraded Harpoon Block 2 and are working on an extended range version of the Block 2 … so there will be some valuable capability in very long range surface attack for our SSNs.

  • Lazarus

    The McClusky was effectively sunk by one Harpoon; again suggesting that the FFG 7 class is not so survivable (as are all ships under 600 feet in length and 10k tons displacement) when hit by one cruise missile.

    • Matthew Schilling

      Of course, it wasn’t defending itself. And, while the two star crossed DDG’s damaged recently didn’t sink, they were put out of commission for quite a while.

      • Well, when a FFG-7 was defending itself it didn’t do so well. SPS-49 and SM-1 are a pretty poor combination against small seaskimming missiles.

        • NEC338x

          As I recall, the Stark’s Mk 92 and CIWS watchstation was unmanned when the missiles were inbound. I’d count that as ‘not defending itself’.

          • Stark’s weapons were on standby because her primary radar completely failed to detect the missile launch. But having them active likely wouldn’t have changed much. SM-1 wouldn’t have known where its targets were because of the radar shortcomings and CIWS has never successfully engaged a missile despite at least 5 Phalanx-equipped ships coming under missile attack.

    • Duane

      If a large warhead hits and detonates in a vital space in any ship, even a super carrier, it can easily knock it out of action. Imagine a 1,000 pound warhead from a LRASM or Tomahawk penetrating the hull and detonating in the middle of the hangar deck … or dead center in the island, or God forbid, in the magazine.

      Current gen ASCMs use imaging IR sensors to pick out a vital spot on the ship and hit it with precision … i.e., the NSM has a CEP of 2.0 feet! And modern warheads employ penetrators and void sensing so that if a particular compartment is known to be so many bulkheads removed from the outer hull, the weapon counts them and then detonates where it will do the most damage. The Rooskies, Chinese, Iranians and NORKs may or may not be that sophisticated YET, but they soon will be if not today.

      The key to surviving ASCM attacks is not to be large, or to have better armor (any armor can be penetrated) … the key is to prevent the missiles from hitting the ship. If even one heavy ASCM hits a vital spot and detonates, then a lot of sailors are going to die, and the ship probably will be knocked out of the war.

      • .Hugo.

        has anyone told you that your current ACSMs (or even future LRASM) are big and slow to the chinese or russian air defense systems? they can also fire their own ACSMs at you farther away with higher speed too.

        • Duane

          Speed is immaterial. Stealth, smarts, sensors, and countermeasures are vastly more useful than speed in a cruise missile.

          • .Hugo.

            radars with multiple bands can pick up both the launch platforms and the missiles, especially when the launch platforms themselves are not stealthy and the missiles are not super fast.

  • Matthew Schilling

    Not much chatter in the comments about the Army capabilities, but that will get the attention of the Chinese Communists. Do to them what they are trying to do to us with their artificial islands. We need a well placed typhoon to scrape those warts off the water.

    • .Hugo.

      well placed ‘typhoon’ like in the movies…. what a laugh… 😀

  • Kypros

    So, lemme get this straight. We already had,” bought and paid for” missiles, and someone decided it’d be better to let them pile up at a warehouse, rather than loading them onto our warships?

    • Duane

      After the end of the Cold War, until China’s naval buildup a few years ago, we didn’t have very many targets to shoot at. Now we do. It’s pretty simple, really.

  • coakl

    Instead of target practice, I’d rather the FFG’s be overhauled and put back in service.
    If you want something useless to shoot at, strip down an LCS and use that.
    That’s about all they’re good for.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    A couple things here. I thought Harpoons are obsolete, thus requiring the development of newer weapons? This sounds like someone determining that the inventory of Harpoon missiles will be put back to use. In other words, it’s a money thing. The article IS specific about bringing back HARPOONS instead of waiting until Harpoon’s replacement(s) become operational.

    Concerning some of the posts discussing LRASM vice NSM/Harpoon, it seems to me that in the early days of a conflict with a peer/near peer adversary, subs and long range bombers launching long range missiles are going to be the initial delivery platforms. That means that other platforms that are going to be counted on to provide mid-course guidance against moving surface targets won’t be available yet. So shorter range weapons that can be fired at targets the subs themselves can detect, classify and track seem to be the logical ones to install. Another thing that will impact all that are the rules of engagement, at least in those early days. .

    • NEC338x

      There will be a nice little pot-o-gold for a contractor to dust off, inspect, and refurbish (where necessary) the UGM-84s.

    • Duane

      Aircraft have much longer radar detection range against surface targets than do any surface radar. So aircraft will always be the most likely platforms for both initial as well as mid course target data for sub or surface launched medium to long range ASCMs. The aircraft therefore does not need to put itself in danger of attack from the target while collecting and transmitting target data, even on the first day of a naval war. Of course if the aircraft is stealthy it can get much closer to the target and still remain undetected.

      That is why the F-35 is so important to naval warfare. It can get relatively close to the enemy undetected and distribute target data to other aircraft, surface ships and subs, and land batteries of ASCMs.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        In TIME, yes. In the confusing, probably chaotic opening days of a major conflict, coordinating with subs is probably not going to be at the top of the priority list. If planes are locating and CLASSIFYING targets (that is critical, as the political fallout from attacking, say, a cruise ship will be substantial). those planes will no doubt be doing their own attacking, or facilitating attacks by other aircraft. It stands to reason that an enemy will endeavor to protect their ships with aircraft as well, so to assume that any plane we launch will not be in danger defies common sense.

  • Southernfriedyankee

    Two or more SSNs launching 3 or more harpoons at 3 enemy frigates from 12 miles away can make for a bad day for the enemy ships. One SSN launching 7 harpoons at 3 enemy frigates from 12 miles away still leaves the moving SSN in a safe position, with torpedoes to spare. I like it.