Denmark pledges to supply Ukraine with Harpoon anti-ship missiles
The Danish government has pledged to supply Ukraine with a Harpoon coastal defense missile system, giving the defenders of Odessa enough range to hold off Russian forces in much of the northwestern Black Sea. . Following news reports that the United States was looking for ways to supply the harpoon to Ukraine, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed the news in a statement to the Pentagon on Monday.
Denmark is a former operator of Harpoon Block II coastal defense missile batteries. The venerable Harpoon is a 50-year-old subsonic anti-ship missile, and although dated, it has been improved over the years and is still in service with many navies around the world. It is an air-breathing subsonic cruise missile with a top speed of around 460 knots and a range of around 70 nautical miles. The Danish version was equipped with inertial guidance and GPS navigation, and it was fitted with the Boeing Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System (AHWCS). This upgrade gives her land attack capabilities to complement her primary anti-ship role.
Harpoon Block II has sufficient range to go from Odessa to Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast, or from the Ukrainian-Romanian border to Russian-occupied Snake Island, the focal point of recent naval engagements in the Black Sea. Although it could be used to defend sea lines of communication to and from Odessa, the missile’s published range would not be sufficient to reach Crimea or the Kerch Strait Bridge from territory currently under Ukrainian control.
Harpoon Block II is still in full production and Boeing holds orders to deliver the missiles under Foreign Military Sales contracts through 2026. Boeing has also manufactured an upgrade kit for the US Navy which improves missile guidance and extends the range of Harpoon Block II to 130 nautical miles, approximately twice the range of the original.
Ukraine urgently needs to end the Russian blockade of its seaports: Ukrainian grain silos are full and there will be nowhere to store the next harvest if existing stocks cannot be shipped to market . Meanwhile, countries heavily dependent on Ukrainian grain – such as Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen – are experiencing skyrocketing prices, which weigh most on those who can least afford it. According to the UN, 41 of the world’s least developed countries source one-third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia.
“[The blockade] is devastating. We lack the means to describe what could actually happen,” World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri said in a recent interview with CNN. “The war in Ukraine is wreaking havoc at home and abroad. We are facing a major food crisis. . . Many of the deepest crises are, unfortunately, in Africa.”
Naval escort plans
Multiple plans to liberate Ukrainian ports have been proposed, mainly naval escort missions orchestrated by NATO or the UN. On Monday, the Lithuanian government presented a proposal for a third way: naval escorts provided by a “coalition of the willing”, including nations affected by the food crisis. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss endorsed the plan shortly after it was announced and said the Royal Navy could potentially contribute.
The coalition could incorporate support from developing countries in the Middle East and Africa, which have not taken sides but have a deep interest in the security of grain shipments. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis gave Egypt as an example of a neutral nation with the ability and potential motivation to participate in an escort mission. Egypt – the most equipped naval power in the Middle East and Africa – is currently experiencing consumer price inflation of more than 13%, due in part to soaring grain prices.
“It is imperative that we show vulnerable countries that we are ready to take the necessary steps to feed the world,” Landsbergis told the Guardian. “In this endeavor, military ships or aircraft, or both, would be used to ensure that grain supplies could safely leave Odessa and reach the Bosphorus without Russian interference. We would need a coalition of the willing – countries with significant naval power to protect shipping lanes, and countries that are affected by this.”
Russian forces attacked several merchant ships in the opening weeks of the invasion, and Ukrainian Navy claims Russian occupiers continue to issue threats to merchant shipping near Snake Island.