Kongsberg precision missiles to replace harpoons on British warships

LONDON — Britain’s Royal Navy will be equipped with a new long-range precision missile in an agreement announced Nov. 22 with the Norwegian government.

Eleven frigates and destroyers will be equipped with the Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace-built Naval Strike Missile.

The first three warships are being rapidly retrofitted to accept the weapon and the first will be ready for service in just over 12 months, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced the deal this week during a visit from the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to Norway.

The surface-to-surface assault weapon is being deployed in time for next year’s retirement of the Harpoon missile originally built by McDonnell Douglas before the company was acquired by Boeing.

Harpoon was earmarked to retire in 2018, but the move was delayed until 2023.

Last November, the British canceled plans to introduce a temporary capability, a move that would have left the navy’s surface fleet without missiles for at least five years. That plan was officially abandoned when the interim program for guided ground-to-ground weapons was revived earlier this year.

“This is an important task with an ambitious timeline,” said Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram. “Both countries have established a designated team with a strong mandate to ensure the success of this joint effort.”

The Norwegian weapon, bought by a large number of countries, including the US, closes the gap between Harpoon’s retirement and the introduction of a future offensive surface weapon.

The Naval Strike Missile will provide the Royal Navy with long-range strikes against surface ships and land targets until the introduction of its permanent successor, the ‘future offensive surface weapon’, which is being developed under a joint agreement between the UK and France.

The Royal Navy’s next-generation anti-ship missile is scheduled for deployment in 2028 aboard Type 26 anti-submarine frigates, the first three of which are under construction by BAE Systems shipyards on the Clyde, Scotland.

BAE, along with the other major British warship Babcock, supported by Kongsberg, will take the lead in integrating the Norwegian missile into the Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers.

Andrew Chuter is the British correspondent for Defense News.

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