Richmond missing missiles?

Hard-working and part of a 13-strong Royal Navy frigate force HMS Richmond should ideally be one of the more capable and versatile platforms in the fleet.

And it usually is. Perhaps however, until now.

Social media images on Monday showed the frigate leaving Portsmouth on a tasking, something far from out of the ordinary for the hard-pressed Type 23s, only this time it appears that the quad-packed Harpoon missile launchers are missing.

With the Harpoon recently stated as due to be retired in 2018 the capability was coming to the end of its useful life anyway, but eyebrows might be raised at seeing the only ASuW missile fitted to the vessels removed ahead of its out-of-service date.

When contacted the UK’s Ministry of Defence said that ‘it would be inappropriate to comment on the details and specific weapons systems carried by each of our ships’.

Furthermore, the MoD said that all Royal Navy ships ‘carry a range of offensive and defensive weapons systems and sail with the appropriate capabilities for their tasking’.

Potentially this means HMS Richmond, commissioned into service 22 years ago, is left with more traditional projectile weapons for surface warfare. It is not known if the removal of the Harpoon from the vessel is temporary.

Responding to questions in the UK’s House of Lords in November last year Earl Howe, minister of state at the MoD, said that the current batch of Harpoon missiles had ‘reached the end of its natural life’.

‘To replace it would require significant investment in a new missile stockpile. It was the Royal Navy’s judgment that that would be a less than optimal use of its budget for future investment.

He continued: ‘Its judgment was that investing in the carriers, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, the new submarines and the offshore patrol vessels, as well a range of missiles and capabilities, rather than reinvesting in a 1980s weapons system, represented the right order of priority for the Royal Navy’s overall capability. That firmly remains its judgment.’


Not something that HMS Richmond can do at the moment (Photo: US Navy)


  • The removal of Harpoon missiles from HMS Richmond is permanent and by 2018 all 19 surface combatants will lose their Harpoons. There is an upgrade kit available to make this vital weapon potent again, but MOD has chosen not to do so. this means that after 2018, the 19 surface combatants of Her Majesty’s Navy will not have the ability to engage and destroy enemy warships within stand off means. The only weapon that RN Destroyers and Frigates can use is the single 4.5′ deck gun that each ship has. In other words, the warships of Churchill’s WW2 fleet will have had more firepower than the fleet of 2018.
    Imagine engaging the Russian or Chinese fleet like this? Lord Nelson would be turning in his grave.


    • Thanks for your comment Michael. One suspects that the RN might have its hands tied on this one but capability gaps go, this is probably the most significant. Already quantitatively struggling when when compared to tier 2 naval powers, it’s now (in a surface fleet context) qualitatively inferior as well.


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