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The Russian Navy Is Sweating: Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles Are Headed to Ukraine

Harpoon Missile
A view of an RGM-84 surface-to-surface Harpoon missile, immediately after leaving a canister launcher aboard the cruiser USS LEAHY (CG-16), near the Pacific Missile Test Center, Calif.

In the coming weeks, the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet may want to steer well clear of the Ukrainian shore – as Denmark announced on Monday that it would supply Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a launcher to Ukraine. The U.S.-made Harpoon could greatly enhance Kyiv’s capabilities to strike Russian warships in the Black Sea.

The all-weather, over-the-horizon, Harpoon was developed by McDonnell Douglas – now Boeing Defense, Space & Security – and it utilizes active radar homing to fly just above the water and evade defenses. It is unclear which model Denmark is sending to Ukraine, but it is reported to be the RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II, which are also capable of hitting targets in port and on land with an upgrade from Boeing Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control Systems.

Those anti-ship missiles could be used to help push Russian warships away from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which could allow for exports of grain and other agricultural products to resume.

This week, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that he was “especially grateful to Denmark which announced today that it will provide a Harpoon launcher and missiles to help Ukraine defend its coast.”

While several nations have shown willingness to send the Harpoons to the Ukrainians, it seemed that no government wanted to be the first to actually supply the weapons, possibly fearing reprisals from Russia if one of its warships were to be sunk with a Harpoon from their respective stockpile.

Targeting Russia Warships

It was just last month that Ukrainian forces successfully sunk the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship Moskva, a Project 1164 guided-missile cruiser that was considered the most powerful warship in the Black Sea region. The vessel was reportedly hit by two Ukrainian R-360 Neptune anti-ship missiles – while Russia claims it was sunk in stormy seas after a fire. The subsonic R-360 is based on the Soviet Kh-35 anti-ship missile, with substantially improved range and electronics.

The Harpoons could help bolster Ukraine’s defenses on the Black Sea, especially as its domestically-made Neptune anti-ship missiles are reportedly in short supply.

“This is an important and measured step to increase the Ukrainians’ capability and operational intensity against the Russians,” Tom Karako, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the director of the Missile Defense Project told Reuters, adding that the weapons “will hold at risk high-value Russian ships attacking Ukraine from the Black Sea or elsewhere.”

Karako also suggested that as Ukraine begins to operate the Harpoon anti-ship missiles, it may have to rely on other nations for targeting data to use the systems effectively against Russian warships at longer ranges.

The Harpoon anti-ship missiles could also threaten the logistics hub for the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, which would make it all the more difficult for Russia to rearm after missile strikes on land targets in Ukraine.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Armchair General

    May 24, 2022 at 11:21 pm

    The Harpoons would prevent an amphibious landing by the Russians in south-western Ukraine, so Ukraine is thus freed to send its 100 tanks at Odessa (5th Tank Brigade) to Kherson or maybe even Donbas to regain some territory.

    It’s time for the Ukrainians to stop being lazy and cowardly and to go on the offense.

    The territory that Ukraine has regained is simply because of the Russians withdrawing from those areas to consolidate their positions in the east and the south-east of the country.

    The Ukrainians didn’t regain those territories in an offense.

    • Fluffy Dog

      May 25, 2022 at 8:40 am

      Ukraine does not have enough offensive weapons yet.
      The reason Russians withdrew is because their offensive was stopped and the assaulting military was destroyed, not “simply because of the Russians withdrawing”…

      • Doof

        May 26, 2022 at 10:43 am

        More escalation. This is a two way street, and the USAau soon find itself on the receiving end of such transfers. It may be time to abandon the base at Al-Tanf Syria. One or two Khinzal hypersonic missiles “on loan” to a faction in Syria will essentially guarantee an end to that mission. Now do you see why we turned tail and ran out of Afghanistan? Can you make the connection?

        • BG Davis

          May 30, 2022 at 8:53 pm

          Great whataboutery! As for “turned tail and ran out of Aghanistan”: 1. Zero connection to the current situation in Ukraine 2. A gross insult to all the brave US troops who fought (and sometimes died) there. America’s longest war had gone on long enough and at some point the locals were going to have to take over. That’s why Trump signed the deal with the Taliban.

    • Ignaz

      May 26, 2022 at 7:05 pm

      Ist langsam an der Zeit dass Russland die Samdhandschuhe auszieht und den Westen in die Schranken weist. Kinzhal sollte die Antwort heissen wenn der Westen sich weiterhin einmischt!

    • Russia's winning

      May 27, 2022 at 6:21 pm

      Stop dreaming, the Danes will NEVER give those Harpoons to the Ukies.

      That was just an empty bluff.

      If the Danes were serious about giving Harpoons to the Ukrainians, they would have done so already.

    • BG Davis

      May 30, 2022 at 8:49 pm

      Lazy and cowardly? You sound like a Kremlin apologist.

  2. Moskva

    May 25, 2022 at 1:16 am

    Ukraine should use these to sink as many Russian Black Sea fleet surface vessels as they can.

  3. Joe

    May 25, 2022 at 7:49 am

    Well gosh, we wouldn’t want to let this war end too quickly without massive casualties and planting the seeds for another major conflict in 10 years, now would we? Why don’t we just send a carrier group while we’re at it and make this thing official?

    • Gothmaster

      May 25, 2022 at 4:56 pm

      Denmark doesn’t have carriers.

      • Doof

        May 26, 2022 at 10:45 am

        You get the award for most knowledgeable participant!

    • BG Davis

      May 30, 2022 at 8:55 pm

      Joe, what’s your point? You seem to contradict yourself.

  4. Leslie Leveson

    May 25, 2022 at 8:07 am

    It is good to hear that these missiles are heading to the area.Will it make Rasputin think over his strategies in commiting naval forces.Only time will tell as the crazy commander carries on,but will bare the consequenses of his actions A game of chess trying to be one move ahead however as not won the game,or will so
    Just a loss of life for one who is incensed by country wishing to display its demorcratic decision.Thankfully Western nations have donated weaponry to help Ukraine in its fight against the Russian Bear.,

  5. P Schmuck

    May 25, 2022 at 10:44 am

    Good announcement. I am sure that Russians will have this launcher right in their top crosshairs the moment it reaches Ukraine.

  6. D P

    May 25, 2022 at 10:45 am

    I read in recent report that the coastal sea has been mined by Russia, if this is so then they will have to cleared before any ship leaves port.

  7. TeXan1111

    May 26, 2022 at 4:52 am

    During this Trump Putin invasion things have not gone well for Russia. I wonder if Trump is continuing to offer his advice to Putin

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