Harpoon or NSM: US chooses anti-ship missile to deblock Ukrainian ports

The United States is considering which coastal missile system to transfer to Ukraine – Harpoon or Naval Strike Missile.

Harpoon/US Navy anti-ship missiles
Harpoon/US Navy anti-ship missiles

The US is already working on a potential solution to transfer long-range anti-ship missiles to Ukraine so that Ukraine can unblock its ports in the Black Sea.

This decision is already being considered at a high level, although several important issues stand in the way of the transfer of these weapons. In particular, we are talking about the delivery mechanism, which can be directly from the United States or from another NATO country, training of crews, as well as the availability of coastal defense missile systems ready for transfer.

But there are only two options, each of which has its pros and cons. We are talking about Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Boeing or Naval Strike Missile from Norwegian Kongsberg and American Raytheon Technologies.

Harpoon transmission

The most important problem on the way of transferring Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine is that there are no ground-based launchers for it. But according to Reuters , the United States is working on potential solutions that include removing the launcher from a US ship.

Harpoon/US Navy anti-ship missiles
Harpoon/US Navy anti-ship missiles

Technically, this is a possible option, but it is almost equivalent to constructing the ground component of the complex from scratch. After all, it is not just about simply putting the launcher on the trailer, but solving a very difficult task of interacting with a number of systems that ensure its launch. Including the formation and insertion into the rocket information about the target and flight route.

Specifications AGM-84L Harpoon Block II

  • Launch range : 124 km
  • Speed ​​: about 850 km/h
  • Rocket weight : 628 kg.
  • Warhead weight : 221 kg
Coastal defense complex Naval Strike Missile / Kongsberg
Coastal defense complex Naval Strike Missile / Kongsberg

Naval Strike Missile transmission

In favor of the delivery of the Naval Strike Missile is the fact that this is an already existing coastal defense missile system. And it will be simpler in terms of logistics.

There are NSM batteries in operation in Poland, a new batch is being produced for Romania, and in the United States, the Marine Corps is testing the complex on an unmanned ground chassis.

Also, do not forget that the Naval Strike Missile is also used on American ships, like the Harpoon. In particular, stealth ships of the Independence class, belonging to the type of coastal warships, are armed with it.

Characteristics of the Naval Strike Missile

  • Launch range : 185 km
  • Speed ​​: high subsonic
  • Rocket weight : 410 kg.
  • Warhead : 125 kg
Naval Strike Missile
Naval Strike Missile

Harpoon vs NSM

If we discard the issue of supplying these systems, and leave only a comparison of their combat capabilities, then the Naval Strike Missile has a large kill zone of 60 km. It should be noted that Reuters indicated a range of 250 km, but the rocket manufacturer in the specification notes “100 nautical mile” (more than 185 km).

In any case, the Naval Strike Missile’s range of 185 km is enough to control the entire northwestern Black Sea, including Snake Island, from the position area in the south of Odessa, and also to shoot up to Cape Tarkhankut of the occupied Crimea.

The latter is of particular importance, because it is this cape that is used in the Russian Federation as a launch site for anti-ship missiles. And the Naval Strike Missile, unlike the Harpoon, has the ability to work effectively against ground targets. The latter is due to the fact that the missile has thermal imaging guidance, unlike the radar head in the Harpoon.

This is another advantage of NSM, because the missile does not emit anything and the ship’s defense systems that warn of the radiation of radar homing heads simply will not work. Also, the Naval Strike Missile is made using stealth technology and the likelihood that it will be seen on the radar is much less than that of the Harpoon.

The Harpoon’s only advantage is the weight of the warhead, which is almost twice that of the Norwegian competitor. On the one hand, a 221-kg warhead can be considered a significant advantage. But in practice, two 150-kg warhead missiles “Neptune” were enough to sink the largest warship of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea – the missile cruiser “Moskva”.

That is, from the point of view of comparing the combat capabilities and effectiveness of the Naval Strike Missile, it looks much more promising. Which is easily explained by the fact that the Norwegian missile is a new development and a new generation of such weapons.

(c)UNIAN 2022


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