The Australian Department of Defence is considering possible involvement in the development of the Boeing Harpoon Block II land attack missile, with a view to deploying the weapon aboard its Collins-class submarines and surface vessels.

The Department has long discussed deploying an ocean launched land strike capability, with a debate on a possible Tomahawk buy ending only when it was ruled out by the 1997 Strategic Review.

Boeing is understood initially to have approached the Royal Australian Navy in late 1996 with an invitation to join the Block II programme. The project was originally scheduled to have received funding approvals in the May 1998 defence budget, but this was delayed pending a re-assessment of the stand-off weapons requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Sea 1434 project is itself now under review, with a decision on whether to proceed expected later this year.

The Block II concept involves fitting the existing Harpoon missile airframe with a low cost combined global positioning system (GPS) and inertial navigation system derived from the Joint Direct Attack Munition. The GPS antenna and software suite are identical to those fitted to the associated SLAM and SLAM-ER missiles.

The missile would carry a 227kg (500lb) blast warhead or a submunitions dispenser. Boeing is also considering integrating the Block II weapon with Vertical Launch Systems. Boeing began development of the upgraded missile in 1997 as an in-house programme. The company expects to have the system available by 2001.

Source: Flight International