An UGM-84 is loaded into Olympia’s torpedo room before heading out on RIMPAC maneuvers. The Navy is also working on classified submarine-launched anti-ship missile systems that are far more exotic in nature than the Harpoon or the latest iteration of the Tomahawk. It’s possible that this test is related to such a program and uses a Harpoon as a surrogate weapon to evaluate a particular tactical scenario. We also don’t know the exact configuration of the Harpoon being used in the test but UGM-84D models are known to be compatible with the Los Angeles class.
It’s also worth mentioning that surface and air-launched versions of the Harpoon still serve in the U.S. military and in dozens of militaries around the globe. But the Navy is slowly stepping away from the four-decade-old design and working on fielding stealthier and smarter anti-ship missiles types.
We will probably find out more about this particular part of the exercise after it occurs as live-fire portions of RIMPAC often get a big public affairs boost. This is particularly so if the weapon in question is being used as part of SINKEX drill where retired a Navy ship will be pummeled with various munitions until it succumbs to the sea.
Regardless, this is yet another sign that after decades of hibernation, the Pentagon is taking a whole new interest in anti-ship missiles as a result of a new era of anti-access and area-denial warfare riding peer-state competition on the high seas.
We’ll let you know when we find out more information. Olympia visited its namesake city in March. It’s is seen here passing Seattle, Washington on its way to Naval Base Kitsap.