I’ve talked about my dislike of Harpoon before. In there, I mentioned a pretty good off-the-shelf replacement in Norway’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM). NSM is small, reasonably priced (especially if you buy a lot), and stealthy. It’s got good ECCM and terminal-phase maneuvering capability as well. Awesome!
But I am a jealous man. And those Russians have a number of supersonic missiles. Supersonic missiles, aside from being 79% cooler than slow, subsonic missiles, are a lot harder to intercept because of the shorter reaction time. For a supersonic, sea-skimmer like P-270 Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn), which travels at Mach 2, the missile will clear the horizon with about thirty seconds left before impact. That’s pretty cool.
Of course, there are problems. Chief among them is the source. Russia is a classic power rival for us. We wouldn’t want to depend on them for weapons in the event of hostilities (just look at Ukraine). Plus, Fishbreath generally (and rightfully so) makes me source from NATO powers since Borgundy is a proud member of the Western Powers Club. Gotta buy from friends. Again, this bears out. Even if Russia was willing to sell, NATO would also balk.1 Clearly the simple option of “Buy Brahmos” (or SS-N-22) is right out.
What to do? Well, we could look further afield for an island nation that has a lot to fear from a nearby navy.
No, not England. It’s not 1910. They suck at navies now. Heck, they’ve gotten rid of their Harpoon stocks without any kind of replacement. And even though I think it’s long in the tooth, some antiship missile is better than no antiship missile. Guess again.
Yes Virginia, Taiwan makes stuff besides consumer electronics. They make their own antiship missiles, for example. One of which, the Hsiung Feng 2 (HF-2), is subsonic. It’s a lot like Harpoon actually, though I don’t think the ECCM and GPS integration of the latest Harpoon models is present in the HF-2. I could be wrong though. But that’s not the missile we’re interested in today. If we wanted Harpoons, we’d get those.
No, the missile we’re interested in is Hsiung Feng 3 (HF-3).
There are lots of gaps in the knowledge of the new, advanced, and relatively secret HF-3. It’s supersonic. With a bit of altitude, it’s said to be hypersonic.2 But there’s no unclassifed top speed estimates that I’ve found to be trustworthy. Ditto for range, though most open source estimates put the range at about 200 km. We know propulsion is a rocket booster/ramjet pair, and we can figure it weighs about twice as much as Harpoon. It’s got inertial guidance with a terminal X-band, active radar seeker. There are also some rumors that it’s nuclear warhead capable. The conventional warhead is said to be 225 kg, which would be more than enough for e.g. the W80 nuclear warhead (maximum yield of 150 kilotons). It’s also designed to execute aggressive terminal-phase evasive maneuvers, and is built to withstand the stresses from doing this at speed.
Because it’s so new, it’s not clear if there’s a reduced-size version for shipboard mounting. This smaller version might trade off some range for ease of deployment. However, there are pictures of ROCS Su Ao (DDG-1802, Kidd-class, the former USS Callaghan) mounting eight HF-3s in lieu of the eight Harpoons she was commissioned with. It’s not clear what changes, if any, were made to accomodate this. Frankly, I don’t care about a small loss of range if it means I can deploy them as a one-for-one Harpoon replacement with speed on our F100s and Sejongs.
Sometimes the things you don’t know about a project are damning. This isn’t one of those times. Supersonic is perfectly acceptable. Even if it’s merely Harpoon-ranged. And if it’s as fast as they say, I’ll be thrilled.
Goose, I’ve got the need. The need for speed. Let’s get some superfast ship killers. We already have the best naval air defense systems available. Let’s give them no reason to hope.
1.) Cf. Turkey’s long range SAM procurement project, when they took a ton of flak from the rest of NATO over wanting to buy from the Chinese.
2.) Cue the pastiche of ‘Greased Lightning’.