BY ASHLEY JOHNSON S. Navy Cmdr. Brian Sinclair feels like he grew up with the Harpoon missile strapped to his wing. He started his naval aviation career flying an S-3 Viking anti-submarine warfare aircraft armed with the Harpoon, the all-weather anti-ship missile system developed by Boeing heritage company McDonnell Douglas. Back in 2000, Sinclair said, he became familiar with the Harpoon 1C variant—it would zero in on the first target it saw. That all has changed with the new Harpoon Block II Plus, which adds a data link, GPS guidance and updated aircraft interface, providing the U.S. Navy with a rapid-capability enhancement. The network-enabled variant can receive and transmit communication while in flight, allowing it to change course to strike a different target, even a moving target, according to Boeing. Those in-flight target updates, Sinclair said, turn Harpoon into “a more precise surgical tool. I see it as a very accurate, very flexible weapon that 44 | BOEING FRONTIERS will actually redefine the war-at-sea tactics for the Navy.” In November 2015, Boeing and the Navy flight-tested the new version. After launching the Harpoon from an F/A-18, the crew input new coordinates to redirect the missile to hit a moving target. It did. After watching the flight test, Boeing Guidance and Control Technical Lead Engineer Bill Sanders said he was in awe of the performance. “It was spectacular,” he said. “When we got down to the end of this test we realized, ‘oh, my goodness, we just checked off this, this, this, this, this, this in one fell swoop.’” The Harpoon program has consistently adapted to match evolving threats over decades, according to Boeing. The newest Harpoon is being integrated on Boeing’s new P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, and there are plans for developing an extended-range option to double the reach of the weapon. The Harpoon is built by Boeing U. employees in St. Charles, Mo. “The Harpoon program tells a great story of partnership and iterative innovation,” said Beth Kluba, vice president of Boeing Weapons & Missile Systems, part of Defense, Space & Security. “It’s a global strike asset that continues to advance and outpace today’s threats through some very impressive and very affordable upgrades.” Previous versions of the missile can be retrofitted with the latest technology and new capabilities. Harpoon is deployed by 29 international customers on more than 600 ships, 180 submarines, 12 types of aircraft and several land-based launch vehicles. Jim Brooks, director of cruise missile systems weapon programs for Global Strike Weapons & Missile Systems, pointed to quality and reliability being hallmarks of the missile. Each updated version has demonstrated more than 90 percent reliability in fleet exercises, according to Brooks.
Frontiers May 2016 Issue
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