The Royal Navy could be without a heavyweight surface-to-surface guided weapon following the earlier-than-expected withdrawal of the Harpoon.
The Ministry of Defence has disclosed that the anti-ship missile may be retired in 2018, potentially limiting the service's ability to engage in long-range warfare.
A notice published by the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) on 8 July confirmed 2018 as the current planned Out of Service Date (OSD) for Harpoon. DE&S further noted that options are being investigated to extend the OSD out to 2020 or 2023, but cautioned that "this is not guaranteed".
Save for a putative arrangement with France for an anti-ship weapon slated to enter service in 16 or so years, the UK has no approved programme for a Harpoon replacement.