Royal Navy warships to receive Harpoon replacement from next year

Topic: Equipment and Tech Storyline: Destroyers

The firepower of Royal Navy warships will be bolstered with new ship-busting missiles.

Eleven Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers will be fitted with the sea-skimming Naval Strike Missile, capable of knocking out major enemy warships at ranges of more than 100 miles away.

The MOD today ordered the missile system as the interim replacement for the existing Harpoon, which reaches the end of its active life next year.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the investment in the new weapon on a visit to Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Norwegian capital Oslo.

Harpoon has been in service for several decades and, despite frequent upgrades and enhancements to keep pace with developments in technology, can no longer meet the demands of mid-21st Century naval warfare.

The Naval Strike Missile will plug the gap between Harpoon and the advent of its permanent successor, the ‘future offensive surface weapon’, which will become the Fleet’s premier long-range, heavy duty anti-ship missile in 2028, carried  by the Royal Navy’s next-generation Type 26 frigates, currently under construction on the Clyde.

The Naval Strike Missile is already in service with three navies – the Norwegian, US and Polish – and lined up to be fitted to the warships of half a dozen more.

Travelling at speeds close to Mach 1, the 400kg missile can strike at targets more than 100 miles away, evading detection by skimming over the sea’s surface and eluding enemy defences via evasive manoeuvres.

UK defence firms Babcock and BAE Systems will install NSM on the 11 warships, with the first ship due to be operational by the end of next year.