Copenhagen has pledged to give Ukraine a truck-mounted Harpoon launcher along with a bunch of its anti-ship missiles in an effort to strengthen its defenses against Russian navy ships that had been attacking Ukraine from the Black Sea.

Denmark’s plan to donate the Harpoons was revealed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last Monday. This comes after the US government also expressed interest in arming Ukraine with advanced anti-ship missiles, including Boeing’s Harpoon missiles and Kongsberg and Raytheon’s Naval Strike Missiles.

“I’m especially grateful to Denmark, which announced today that it will provide a Harpoon launcher and missiles to help Ukraine defend its coast,” Austin stated.

“I’d also like to thank the Czech Republic for its substantial support, including a recent donation of attack helicopters, tanks, and rocket systems. And today, several countries announced new donations of critically needed artillery systems and ammunition, including Italy, Greece, Norway, and Poland,” he added.

This press briefing comes after the second meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a meeting attended by 40 defense ministers whose primary goal is to help Ukraine get the munitions they need to fend off Russia. Ukraine was represented by its own defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov.

A Harpoon Block II missile is launched successfully from HMAS Perth (Australian Navy). Source: https://www.navy.gov.au/weapon/rgm-84-harpoon-block-ii
A Harpoon Block II missile is launched successfully from HMAS Perth (Australian Navy)

SOFREP reported on the first meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group last month, where 43 countries led by the United States held a meeting at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany in a primary effort to supply Ukraine with more financial and military backing.

It is important that Ukraine does obtain its own set of Harpoon anti-ship missiles as their range may be able to drive Russian naval units further out to sea, and break the blockade of Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea. This blockade has halted grain exports passing through the area. Grain is one of Ukraine’s main exports to the world. With Russia blocking the way and stealing the grain, the world’s food prices have shot up (Thanks, Russia, for helping world hunger proliferate).

SOFREP’s very own Guy McCardle put this “posturing” in a simple analogy to help readers understand the importance of having anti-ship missiles. He explains that if you had a crazy next-door neighbor who wanted to hurt you physically, you could get a large enough stick like a “shillelagh-looking deals that’s like a club on the end” so that when the crazy neighbor eventually does come around again, you can scare off your neighbor by threatening to bash his head in without even saying a word. Just show your bat-sh*t crazy neighbor, whose name just happens to be “Ivan,” that you have this large club, and he’ll probably leave you alone.

In essence, Mr. McCardle is correct. When Ukraine does get its Harpoon missiles from the US, UK and Denmark, they would hold the metaphorical large “stick” to scare off the Russian naval blockade in fears that approaching the coast will get you clobbered.

“The Russians can’t afford to lose any more vessels, and the Ukrainians would be all too happy to sink their ships with their new multi-million dollar weapons. Problem solved,” McCardle emphasized.

It is important to note that the Ukrainians have already enjoyed success against the Russian navy by sinking their Black Sea Fleet flagship, the Moskva. We reported last April that the Moskva was struck by two Neptune anti-ship missiles. The Russians said the Ukrainians did not sink it and that a fire had started on board due to an ammunition explosion (Yeah, right. We totally believe that!). The Moskva was the first Russian flagship to be sunk by enemy action since the Russian-Japanese War in 1904.

Jokes soon flooded the internet with various memes about the Moskva, with a vast majority of the world saying that the Moskva had been promoted to a submarine. Others photoshopped a Ukrainian tractor towing the Moskva after it was hit. Even we could not resist the temptation to fire our own jokes as it was comical how the Russians were doing so badly.

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USS Coronado (LCS 4), an Independence-variant littoral combat ship, launches the first over-the-horizon missile engagement using a Harpoon Block 1C missile (Lieutenant Bryce Hadley, U.S. Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Coronado_Launches_First_Over-The-Horizon_Missle_Using_a_Harpoon_Block_1C_Missile_in_Pacific_Ocean,_July_19,_2016.jpg
USS Coronado (LCS 4), an Independence-variant littoral combat ship, launches the first over-the-horizon missile engagement using a Harpoon Block 1C missile (Lieutenant Bryce Hadley, U.S. Navy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Going back to the Danish package of Harpoons, the Defense Secretary did not specify which variant Copenhagen was going to send. However, it is known that they operate RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block IIs, which, if donated to Ukraine, will be a large gain as it is capable of hitting ships at sea and on land if upgraded with the Boeing Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System. Most of all, it is one of the most successful anti-ship missiles ever built and is relatively cheap to produce at just $1.65 million.

“This is an important and measured step to increase the Ukrainians’ capability, and operational intensity against the Russians,” Senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the director of the Missile Defense Project Tom Karako told Reuters, adding that the missiles “will hold at risk high-value Russian ships attacking Ukraine from the Black Sea or elsewhere.”

That being said, if the Ukrainians do get their Harpoons and get trained to use them in a short span of time, it is not difficult to imagine more Russian navy vessels joining the Moskva in its new military operation – the “Special Military Underwater Operation” presented by a whole new fleet of “submarines.”

Russia’s best shot at countering the Harpoon is constant air patrols over Ukrainian territory to try and detect the launchers near the sea and destroy them on the ground prior to any Russian ship venturing within it the 80-150 mile range of the Harpoon. This would take dozens of aircraft to accomplish. So far, the Russians have not displayed any talent in the kind of combined arms operation that would see the Russian airforce and navy coordinate in countering the threat posed by these missiles. Ukraine would be smart enough and have the resources to ensure its Harpoon launchers were defended by surface to air missiles to deal with any threat from the Russian air force.