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Subject: Removal of Harpoon from USN
Iano    12/31/2004 7:27:24 AM
Has Harpoon really been removed from the USN's surface vessels? I'm no expert but to me that seems crazy. If you are going to sea with only ESSM and Standard (point and area air defence), then essentially your ships are capable only of defending themselves from the air. If they cant undertake aggressive or offensive action, and no other navy has the size to, say, attack the US mainland, which would neccessitate a defensive force, then what is the point of having surface combatants in the USN? How can you project power around the globe if you cant even hit anyone? Or is the idea of all your frigates, destroyers and cruisers simply to provide defence for your aircraft carriers, which will provide offensive capability for the whole group? So what is the doctrine anyway? Ian
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fitz    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   12/31/2004 8:08:29 AM
Harpoon has been removed from the Perry class frigates due to the retirement of the Mk 13 missile launchers that fire them. There is simply no way to fire it now. Harpoon is also not being fitted to new-build DDG-51 Flight IIA destroyers because the volume it requires has been taken up by other equipment when the ships were re-designed. None of this is any great loss because while Harpoon works fine in the open ocean, it is less useful in littoral waters. You may have noticed that during the last 15 years the USN's emphasis has switched from blue water to coastal operations. In a littoral environment SM-2 is a superior anti-ship missile (yes it can and has been used against surface targets - it's not just for airplanes anymore). So your fears are unfounded. I'm also not sure where you get the idea that surface combattants only exist to shoot missiles at other surface combattants, which seems to be the point of your thesis.
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Iano    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   12/31/2004 8:18:17 AM
No, I know there are other roles for surface vessels. But if I were designing a surface vessel for example, antiship missiles would be no 1 on the list of things it should have on board. After all how can you have a platform that cannot engage its "opposite number"? As for SM2 being used in ASuW, thats what HorribleSailor said, but how can a missile that is meant to destroy something highly agile but lowly armoured such as aircraft, be used against a warship which is the complete opposite, lowly agile, but well armoured, and be expected to prosecute these targets with success? Also I bet all those expensive AAW guidance systems are going to waste on an ASuW shot. After all does an ASuW missile need to be able to follow a target when it pulls a zimmerman turn at mach 2? Ian
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HorribleSailor    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   12/31/2004 11:26:19 AM
Ian, re: your point about air warfare systems going to waste by using SM2 against surface targets, I think you've got things a little the wrong way round. It's much more cost efficient to use the same system for two purposes than to have seperate AAW and ASuW systems and entailed logistics. Oh, and warships aren't at all well armoured in the sense I think you meant it, structurally strong. Modern warships rely much more heavily on active armour, ie taking out the incoming round before impact. While Harpoon was fairly effective against this, by being able to attack from unexpected angles and flying close to the sea, SM2 is much faster, so it's not so clear cut which would be more effective. However, against small patrol craft in the littoral which might need to be taken out as soon as possible, SM2 actually has a better profile than Harpoon..
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fitz    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   12/31/2004 6:11:52 PM
Anti-ship missiles would be first on your list? Why? What requirement do they meet? What kind of missile is needed to meet that requirement? Is there a requirement at all? You don't start arming and equiping a ship based on a catalog of toys you'd like to have, you do so based (hopefully) on requirements based on a rational assessment of the possible threats. Harpoon was originally designed to be fired by aircraft (P-3) against surfaced submarines in the mid-Atlantic (hence the name). It was adapted as a surface and submarine launched anti-ship missile for use in a general blue-water war. Again we are talking deep ocean. Unfortunately the blue-water threat Harpoon was procured to meet no longer exists. Today's threats are far more likely to be encountered in coastal waters littered with all manner of clutter from land masses to commercial traffic. Harpoon's guidance system is poorly adapted to this requirement. Semi-active guidance is however, perfect for this kind of environment which makes SM-2 an ideal weapon for littoral ASuW. It is far easier to set up and quicker to shoot than Harpoon and it is under positive guidance from the firing platform, reducing the odds of it wandering off and hitting something its not supposed to. SM-2 is also much faster and harder for an adversary to intercept or decoy. As for the lethality of SM-2 - in short, it does just fine thank you. The warhead is more than adequate to cause severe damage to likely threat vessels but like any ASuW missile, the real damage is caused by the rest of the missile, in particular the unspent fuel. Remember, HMS Sheffield was not lost to the blast or impact damage from the AM.39 that hit her, she was gutted by the fire started by that Exocets unburned rocket fuel. Besides, even a tiny missile like Shrike with a 45 lb. warhead managed to disable a missile cruiser (USS Warden) for 4 hours, making her completely deaf, dumb, blind and utterly defenseless during that period. It NEVER penetrated the Warden's hull BTW. Or how about the Turkish destroyer Muavenet (ex-USS Gwin MMD 33), put out of action with the bridge destroyed and 5 killed including her captain by a Sea Sparrow? As for cost, SM-2 Block IIIA cost $510,000 each in FY91. In FY88 OTOH a Harpoon Block 1C had a unit cost of $1,270,000. You see, Harpoon relies on a much more complicated and expensive turbojet engine and much more sophisticated active radar than SM-2 and is acquired in smaller numbers.
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ej    RE:SM2 as an antisurface weapon   1/1/2005 7:19:46 AM
A few questions for everybody: 1.How can you use the surface to air radar of the SM2 (Aegis) in a surface to surface mode ? what about clutter from the sea surface? how can the radar guide the missile over the horizen? 2. what's the range of the SM2 in this mode and what is the size of its warhead? 3.when was it used as an anti surface weapon? 4.will the new planned SM6 retain this ability? 5. why cant you use tactical tomhawk against ships? I think it has a terminal guidance ,and alltough it is slow its much faster than any ship.
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fitz    RE:SM2 as an antisurface weapon   1/1/2005 9:58:12 AM
1.How can you use the surface to air radar of the SM2 (Aegis) in a surface to surface mode ? what about clutter from the sea surface? how can the radar guide the missile over the horizen? SPY-1 can scan all the way down to the horizon but target designation need not come from SPY-1. It can come from SPQ-9, SPS-55, SPS-67 or SLQ-32 for example. It can even come from LAMPS III. OTH shooting is a bit of a red Herring. Even with a "real" anti-ship missile like Harpoon the chances of a hit drop off so dramatically when the target is over-the-horizon that its hardly worth it. There are tricks that can be done with SM-2 though, such as command guiding it over the target then telling it to drop - no illumination required - it just dives on the target. But in a littoral environment OTH shots will be few if any anyway. 2. what's the range of the SM2 in this mode and what is the size of its warhead? To the radar horizon of the firing ship and a bit beyond with a skilled operator. The warhead is 125 lb. blast-fragmentation, although warhead size is HIGHLY overated in anti-ship missiles. As mentioned before, its not the warhead that does the real damage. For example; In test shots inert Harpoon's (filled with concete instead of a warhead) have done almost as much damage as live rounds. 3.when was it used as an anti surface weapon? Since the 3T series (Tarter, Terrier, Talos) were first deployed in the late 1950's. Practice shots with SM-2 and Sea Sparrow (for those ships so equipped) in anti-surface mode is normal excercise procedure. In combat SM-1 sank an Iranian FAC-M in 1987. There was also the training accident I mentioned in my last post involving the Turkish Navy and Sea Sparrow. The semi-active Gabriel I missile was used to great effect in 1973 to literally decimate the Egyptian and Syrian navy's respectively. 4.will the new planned SM6 retain this ability? Don't know. 5. why cant you use tactical tomhawk against ships? I think it has a terminal guidance ,and alltough it is slow its much faster than any ship. Tactical Tomahawk uses an inertial platform with GPS position updates. It has no terminal guidance seeker. It can only be fired against stationary targets and takes about 10 minutes to set up a shot. The anti-ship version of Tomahawk was already a failure because of the OTH problem mentioned earlier. We don't need to go there again. There is no requirement for such a weapon anyway. Really though, most surface targets will probably be dealt with by aircraft and helicopters, like they were in Operation Desert Storm, so I think a lot is being made out of nothing here.
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spsun10000    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   1/1/2005 6:48:03 PM
I guess the point the poster is making is what harm does it do to have a ship equipped with a blue water SSM. Whilst, as Fitz has pointed out, warfare in the littoral is a more likely scenario for today’s navy's and Harpoon is unsuitable for that, can we say that under no circumstances ever during it's 30 years of service will any warship in the USN find itself having to deal with a blue water surface warfare threat? What about say a confrontation with China which has highly ASuW capable blue water warships? It’s therefore reasonable I think to argue that whilst every vessel does not need a blue water ASuW capability as the balance shifts to the littoral, that the fleet overall does have to retain a capability against that contingency. The decommissioning of the Mk13 launcher on the Perry’s, withdrawal of the Spruance class and non fitting of Harpoon to the Flight IIA Burkes has reduced the presence of Harpoon in the USN fleet. However, it remains on Ticonderoga cruisers and most Flight I/II Burkes meaning that it is deployed on around 50 USN vessels so that a typical task force would be likely to have Harpoon equipped warships. In addition SSN's, carrier based strike aircraft and long range maritime patrol aircraft are all capable of attacking enemy surface vessels in a blue water scenario. One balance then the USN probably has the blue water scenario adequately covered at the moment. If we saw Harpoon being removed from some of these other vessels as well then that might arguably constitute too great a reduction against a blue water ASuW contingency but at the moment I'd say the economies from not equipping every vessel with Harpoon are reasonably balanced against the risk given the overall capabilities of the fleet. Steve
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spsun10000    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   1/2/2005 6:06:35 AM
Just wanted to add that we shouldn't become overly fixated on Harpoon. I understand systems such as the RBS15 Mk3 are highly capable littoral warfare SSM's that also have the range to operate in blue water engagements. I am disappointed that the UK is not fitting such as system to the Type 45 destroyer as it's PAAM's SAM system cannot be used against surface targets and reductions in the number of Nimrod LRMP aircraft, cuts in SSN numbers plus the withdrawal of ASM's from the Sea Harrier mean that there is less blue water ASuW capability in other parts of the fleet. Steve
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Iano    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   1/2/2005 12:57:59 PM
Are they not bringing the Ticonderoga's out of service now though? Yes I'm not saying we need to keep Harpoon, or that every ship needs to be ASuW, or have SSMs, but what I am saying is that a widespread form of attacking surface vessels is still needed. And that all other surface combatants should not be employed as escorts for the aircraft carriers who will undertake offensive work. Just my thoughts, although I'm far from an expert. Ian
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spsun10000    RE:Removal of Harpoon from USN   1/2/2005 2:05:29 PM
The first 5 Ticonderogas are being withdrawn because they don't have a VLS system. The numbers I quoted were post their withdrawal i.e. 22 Ticonderoga, 28 Arleigh Burke Flight I/II. Hope that helps Steve
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