3301. The Harpoon Missile System: 30 Years of Preeminent Naval Defense


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Thomas M. Schultz: 3301. The Harpoon Missile System: 30 Years of Preeminent Naval Defense. 2003.



The date is June 21, 1971, and the headline reads ? ?Navy Selects McDonnell Douglas as Prime Contractor for New Anti-Ship Missile.?
Thus began the legacy of the Harpoon family of missiles more than 30 years ago.
Originally dubbed the Air Launched Ship Attack Missile, or ALSAM, Harpoon has evolved into the U.S. Navy?s primary anti-ship missile and the longest-running line of cruise missiles ever produced.
Unsettling world events in the 1960s ? including the Soviet Union stockpiling missiles in Cuba ? convinced the U.S. government that America must be prepared to counter greater tactical threats. The idea for a common missile for both attack and patrol aircraft was born.
The U.S. Navy wanted one weapon to satisfy two modes of operation ? air-launched attack on surface vessels in forward areas and surface ship attack against hostile surface ships and patrol craft. Five teams submitted bids in response to the Navy?s request for proposal, and the winner was the McDonnell Douglas team. In December 1972, just 18 months after contract award, the first guided Harpoon, an air?launched missile, hit its target. Through the years Harpoon has proven to be a reliable missile for the U.S. fleet and its allies with a 100-percent success rate in combat.
Thirty years after that initial contract award, McDonnell Douglas ? now merged with Boeing ? continues to produce the Harpoon missile for sale internationally. The Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM), a Harpoon derivative, has responded to threats in both Operation Desert Storm and Bosnia. During Desert Storm, SLAM earned the reputation for being the missile that could ?see? its target with such precision that a second SLAM missile could enter the hole created by the first.
The SLAM Expanded Response (SLAM ER) is now in production. SLAM ER retains the reliable Harpoon propulsion system, but provides a completely new precision guidance system, new integration with the SLAM seeker and advanced data link, new reactive titanium core warhead, and deployable planar wings. SLAM ER provides the Navy with a reliable, lethal, survivable missile system that is easy to employ outside the reach of enemy air defense systems.
And now Block II has added the precision strike capabilities of both the SLAM ER and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to the proven Harpoon design. This upgrade allows the Harpoon to be both an anti-ship and land attack dual-mode weapon.
Affordable, low risk, combat-proven Harpoon and Harpoon derivatives. Thirty years and counting.


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