The system design and development (SDD) contract will result in a kit upgrade program that will provide 800 enhanced surface and air launched Harpoon missiles and 50 ship-launch systems.
Using a new data-link system, the Harpoon Block III aims to enhance surface warfare capabilities by giving operators more control after the weapon is released. According to Boeing this will provide improved accuracy for coastal and open-ocean warfare. The upgrade also paves the way for future spiral developments, including extended range and vertical launch capabilities.
The upgrade adds in-flight target updates, positive terminal control and connectivity with future network architectures to a proven missile that already provides autonomous, all-weather, over-the-horizon capability.
‘The start of the SDD is a big milestone for the Harpoon program and is the first major development for the US Navy on Harpoon for many years,’ said Jim Young, Jr., Boeing Harpoon Block III programme manager. ‘Harpoon Block III will provide the warfighter with a capable, near-term solution to over-the-horizon, surface warfare threats.’
The surface-launch version is scheduled to achieve initial operational capability in early 2011 with the air-launch version following later that year.