The Idea of having AGM-84 Harpoon Missiles in the Philippine Air Force

The Philippine Air Force is in the process of having more sophisticated weaponry with several of those platforms already been discussed in detail on this blog website. Moreover, it is notable that the discussions of last year may get it interesting by this year as we entered the third year of the Horizon 2 spanning 2018-2022 wherein several projects may come with some additional packages which may go as part of this discussion.

Pitz Defense Analysis Note: From this year on, there may be variations to how articles will be made on this blog website as we keep on improving on the way we provide information for readers like you to make it more convenient as possible. So, it will be a bit unconventional in terms of getting the details across as substance goes over form which may make our articles a bit shorter.

AGM-84 Harpoon Missile Philippine Air Force
An AGM-84 Harpoon Missile fitted onboard a U.S. Navy F-18 aircraft.
Image Source.
The discussion of having an anti-ship missile munition goes as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) goes on in improving its capabilities as part of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program or RAFPMP based from R.A. 10349 where it goes along with the desire to have a minimum credible defense posture.

And with that defense posture comes with the idea of obtaining this weaponry as it comes with the idea of protecting the country as a whole wherein the national coastline and the waters that surround the national territory and its archipelagic attribute is something for the Armed Forces to defend with, as part of their mandated duties and responsibilities as to safeguard the integrity and for the best interest of the whole citizenry.

Currently speaking, the Philippine Air Force's planning goes in correlation to this report from Inquirer dated December 19, 2019, in which they presented an idea where they see interest in the possible purchase of AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles in which this is ideal for their later utilization upon this materialization, as it goes apparently to the current progress concerning another project which is the Multirole Fighter Jet Program with the recent article we provided in a link here.

The report coincides with Boeing's marketing pitch that involves another platform which is the AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter wherein they showcase its capability that, as a marketing move, goes that it satisfies the needs of the Philippines in terms of defending its territory like those currently taking place in the West Philippine Sea. Take note that the Philippine Air Force has its own Attack Helicopter program in which the competition is between the AH-1Z Viper and the T-129 ATAK helicopter from Turkey. (The discussion for the Apache will be discussed in a future entry).

Setting the helicopter discussions aside, let us deal with the idea of having such a platform given that as far as the Armed Forces of the Philippines is concerned, there are two other anti-ship missile platforms that the other branches within the military are also seeking as it goes integrated onboard warships like those for the new frigates that the Philippine Navy is about to receive this year or those for the Philippine Army that is apparently being finalized this year.

Boeing P-8 Poseidon
The P-8 Poseidon was derived from a Boeing 737 design.
Image Source.
To understand more in-detail regarding the AGM-84 Missiles which may soon be available in the Air Force's array of different military guided and unguided sets of loaded munitions in its inventory, let us discuss at a glance with regards to the company that produces it as apparently, they are known enough in the defense industry as their products are what composes of several of the United States Armed Forces' key military assets.

While the current iteration of the company came as the result of Boeing's merge with another prominent U.S. Aerospace/Defense Company McDonnell Douglas, it is worth noted that the company started on July 16, 1916, of which Boeing with its original organization decades before the merge was founded by William E. Boeing where it has resulted from a merger with his other company, Pacific Aero Products Co.

Discussing the company as a whole may take a lot of space which render this page unbearable to read with a lengthy write-up, let us specifically emphasize Boeing's division more known as the Boeing Defense, Space, and Security with its headquarters originally established in St. Louis in Missouri where they transfer recently near the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. and is the one that oversees the production of missiles and other military hardware like the AGM-84 Harpoon Missiles.

Speaking of the history of Boeing's division as compared to the company's overall history, it is worth considering that the division formed just recently with its original form known as the Boeing Integrated Defense Systems which founded on July 10, 2002, where it came as a result of the company's re-organization of its key businesses dealing with the military, defense and security development as well manufacturing matters to streamline corporate operations with the division overlooking defense contract prospects, marketing of military platforms and developing a new set of weaponry for the future U.S. Armed Forces use as well as for ever-changing aspects of combat.

This defense division of Boeing is known to produce key fighter aircraft such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet, different variants of F-15 Strike Eagle as it is originally produced by McDonnell Douglas before the merging of both companies, and AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter which was recently offered by the company to the Philippines and missiles such as the notable AGM-84 Harpoon missiles and drones like the Insitu ScanEagle.

It is nice to take note that the wide range of military assets that Boeing produces is currently in service with several Air Forces and militaries across the world with the United States being its largest customer which affirms its reputation along with its history in the defense industry, although the company is experiencing problems recently especially in its division that deals with commercial aircraft.

Hence, the defense division of Boeing along with the knowledge that McDonnell Douglas has with its own before the merge improves the company's prominence in both the defense and aerospace industry as it is one of the key U.S. Defense Companies that provide military weaponry across the world, along with its competitors Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

RGM-84 Harpoon U.S.S. Coronado
A Harpoon missile (RGM-84) was launched from a U.S. Littoral Combat Ship.
Image Source.
Being in service by around 32 nations across the world, the Harpoon missiles have a good reputation of utilization as it keeps military assets from fighter aircraft to surface vessels armed to teeth which renders an armed force to be much capable in providing deterrence as a result of a development taking place more than half a century ago.

While the United States Armed Forces kickstart a project for anti-ship missiles in 1965, it is not until 1972 that McDonnell Douglas (the one that developed the Harpoon) initiated its first flight wherein it took five more years until the first series of munitions were deployed in 1977, wherein it entered service with the United States Navy onboard its surface warships.

The improvements that were introduced along with the missile came with time as different blocks of Harpoons provided from the original Block 1 of the late 1970s to the Block 1B that was introduced in 1981, the Block 1C wherein this apparently became the recent iteration of the Harpoon of its time developed from 1982, with the Block 2 now the latest version introduced with a first contract set in 1998 and apparently is the current one that the United States and other users have utilized.

A Block II+ version is currently in the planning works, as the United States Government through the congress, has provided support for Boeing to enhance its development of a missile that was introduced five decades earlier as the recent upgrades may provide that significant boost that the U.S. Military may need in the future, something that gives benefit to key allies like the Philippines which seeks such munitions later on.

This goes to show the ever-improving development of the Harpoon missiles which it is currently enjoying support from its manufacturer and even from its key main users like the United States Armed Forces, wherein these guided anti-ship munitions may see more action, in the long run, providing that capability of delivering the payload sufficiently unto the target vessel with satisfiable results.

AGM/RGM/UGM-84 Harpoon Missile Specifications.
The Harpoon missile's specs. Click to enlarge. Image Source.
Being introduced in the early 1970s, the Harpoon missile is the most common missile weaponry munition in the western military's arsenal, in which it can be seen launched onboard military warships such as Destroyers and Frigates, Submarines, and military aircraft particularly the ones that are made in the United States like the Boeing-produced F-15 Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet.

As discussed, there are several Blocks which define the developmental stages of the Harpoon missiles wherein the then-McDonnell Douglas and eventually, Boeing introduced features which are incorporated on the missiles with the Block 1 launched in an altitude before diving itself then skimming into its target with the Block 1B removing such a feature and eventually the Block 1C having it as an optional thing.

The Block 2's feature meanwhile is an improvement from the previous developmental stages of the Harpoon missile as it incorporates additional attributes involving resistance from countermeasures such as an enemy anti-air missile launched in defense from a VLS or vertically-launched system of a warship coupled with a Close-in Weapons System or CIWS as well as having an improved targeting feature which ensures that the missile will have a greater chance of getting into the target accurately.

There are at least three variants of the Harpoon missiles in inventory which come as follows - 

AGM-84 - A Harpoon variant that can be launched from an aircraft and is also the one that the Philippine Air Force considers for its additional inventory of guided munitions weaponry.

RGM-84 - A surface-launched Harpoon variant that can be found onboard surface warships such as Destroyers like the Arleigh-Burke class of the United States Navy, or Frigates and other warships of any type from any of its 30 users of such military platform.

UGM-84 - Submarine-launched variant of the Harpoon missile.

These anti-ship missiles are compatible enough to be fitted onboard US-made aircraft in the case for the AGM-84 as a plug-and-play feature wherein there will be fewer configurations needed as the weaponry goes along with the ecosystem that it came along as it goes on the idea of interoperability along with the military platforms in service within the United States Armed Forces and on the other users of such weaponry.

Its range as provided in the graph is at approximately 67 nautical miles which are converted to 124.084 kilometers in distance from the platform it was launched - either from a warship, submarine, or an aircraft up to its intended target at a high subsonic speed of Mach 0.9, nearing at the speed of sound which is at Mach 1.

With the details provided, it is for sure will provide a capability that any armed forces desire to have against enemy targets specifically an intruding nation's frigate or destroyer wherein one shows resolve or simply deterrence of obtaining such platform that having a minimum credible defense posture still in itself a force to get reckoned with.

Philippine Air Force PAF F-16
The Philippine Air Force includes these munitions as part
of the Multirole Fighter Jet Program. Credits to the original source.
It is well known that the Philippine Air Force is currently embarking on what will be known as one of its notable big-ticket projects under the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (RAFPMP) Horizon 2 which is the acquisition that involves 12 units of Multirole Fighter Jets, equatable to a single squadron.

Read: Updates for the Philippine Air Force Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project

With the abstract budget of the contract pegged at Php 61,200,000,000.00 based on an exchange rate of Php55.00 as opposed to US$1.00, and with the current exchange rate between the Philippine Peso and the US Dollar as of article posting at Php50.00 as opposed to US$1.00, it is not surprising that there is something more with the budget can provide in terms of having just the units alone.

This is where the report came in with Boeing pitching the AH-64 Apache have while having negotiations on a possible purchase of the Harpoon missile which will be done through a Foreign Military Sales route, rendering an idea of providing the incoming multirole fighter jets capability in delivering such payload needed that is essential for the protection of the country's national territory from the enemy's capable surface warships, given that the Philippines as an archipelago is surrounded by bodies of water in which the Air Force in this manner may help augment the Philippine Navy in terms of firepower aside from their duties and responsibilities in protecting the Philippine Air Defense Identification System or PADIZ.

With the Lockheed Martin F-16 Viper being the currently preferred candidate for the Multirole Fighter Jet program, it is an additional thing in putting munitions such as the AGM-84 in the picture wherein the weaponry can simply be fitted onboard the aircraft as a plug and play component which is an advantage especially in having both the platform and the weapons fit have originated and produced by a single nation.

Therefore, it will be a promising thing for the organization to have such a capable platform wherein it also comes with weaponry that is also capable in terms of delivering such firepower that will sufficiently undermine the enemy especially on its intent that poses threat against a country's sovereignty.

SSM-700K Haesong Philippine Navy
While the PAF will have the Harpoon, the PN meanwhile
will soon have this - the SSM-700K "Haesong" anti-ship missile.
Image obtained via Wikimedia Commons.
While the deal with the Philippine Air Forces is on obtaining Harpoon missiles as its own anti-ship weaponry that can be delivered from a multirole fighter aircraft, other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have varying military weaponry with them which were obtained from different sources, in different countries, while attaining such a similar purpose of eliminating such a target from the sea.

First of those missiles is the South Korean-made SSM-700K "Haesong" anti-ship missile in which we discussed in another article dealing with an advent for a missile-guided Philippine Navy wherein these missiles are expected to be fitted onboard the newest class of warships that the organization is about to obtain this year which is the Jose Rizal-class Frigates - BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151).

Both of the ships were made by Hyundai Heavy Industries with most of its subcomponents fitted are originated from South Korea such as the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield ICMS and the SSM-700K which will be the default anti-ship munitions of these warships that will be the most sophisticated ones that the Philippine Navy will soon obtain.

Another missile system is the Philippine Army's BrahMos cruise anti-ship missiles which will be purchased from India through BrahMos Aerospace wherein the Department of National Defense is seeking to have two batteries, each with three launchers as opposed to four launchers that the Indian Armed Forces employ on their respective missile batteries, rendering the Army's shifting capabilities from internal security to external defense matters as they may later have the capability to destroy targets at sea which augments both the Navy and later the Air Force's capabilities in doing the same thing.

Having three anti-ship missile systems across all of the three military branches under the Armed Forces of the Philippines seems to pose a logistical challenge given that all of these systems are designed with a purpose in line with the country's defense posture which is to eliminate targets at sea, specifically surface warships that poses threat against national security.

Despite having such a potential challenge, let it be take noted that the Harpoon missile is a plug-and-play platform for the currently preferred MRF of the Philippine Air Force while such a thing is not possible, if not going expensive, with the Indian BrahMos missile which in itself is capable with its speed almost three times than that of the Harpoon and can be launched from land, and also with the SSM-700K which was chosen as the default weaponry for the Jose Rizal-class Frigates that the Philippine Navy will soon to have.

Therefore, the difference in requirements between military service branches has their respective reasons so as for the AFP to have three different capable anti-ship missile systems, with different attributes and capabilities which all goes with the country's desire in building up with tools required and needed for a minimum credible defense posture.

Philippine Air Force future MRF
The United States Air Force F-16 Multirole Fighter Jet is equipped
with AGM-84 Harpoon Missile.
Image Source.
The Philippine Air Force, in the same manner as the different military branches within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is ramping up its capabilities which came along in protecting the nation's territorial integrity and national interest, which means protecting the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone and providing air support on areas needed.

This is done with the number of procurements being made through the years like the Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50PH and eventually embarking on its project that is currently being materialized such as the Multirole Fighter Jet Program wherein there is the competition between Lockheed Martin's F-16 Viper and SAAB's JAS-39 C/D variant with the former currently in the advantage.

That being said, obtaining weaponry through fitted munitions such as the AGM-84 Harpoon missiles that the Philippine Air Force is seeking is just as essential as the Multirole Fighter Jets it pursues to have so as it will give these jets the fullest potential of its capability as it is getting to be a force that reckons with especially for a maritime nation like the Philippines that relies on such platforms in terms of defense matters which helps augment the firepower that goes in line with the role of the Philippine Navy.

Despite having three different anti-ship missile platforms, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is desirable to have such kind of weaponry as these missiles, although originated from different countries which were made by different suppliers, may still get its job done as all of these platforms came in line with the minimum credible defense that the country needs in defending its national territory and integrity from external threats.

Nevertheless, the AGM-84 Harpoon missile, along with the Multirole Fighter Jet aircraft which are both being finalized, may be done within this year as having these things will provide a much-needed boost for the Philippine Air Force to have, wherein it goes with the aspirations, hopes, and dreams that the momentum will be gained from thereon.


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