The Indian Air Force launched an anti-ship Harpoon missile from a fighter plane for the first time at a pre-designated target in the Arabian Sea last week. The missile, built by US defence giant Boeing, was launched on May 22 from a Jaguar maritime strike fighter that flew 200 nautical miles off the west coast to carry out the mission, a source said.
The fighter belonged to the IAF’s maritime strike squadron based at the Lohegaon airbase outside Pune. The Jaguar was refuelled midair during the mission, the source added.
An official confirmed it was the “first live firing” of the Harpoon from a warplane in India after integration by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. “It was successful,” he added.
With a range of 124 km, the Harpoon is capable of land-strike missions too.
The navy tested the Harpoon last year when a Boeing P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft launched the subsonic missile to take out a ‘target’ in the Bay of Bengal.
India has bought a package of 24 Harpoon Block II missiles for its navy and another 22 for the IAF.
India is also looking at arming its Shishumar class submarines with the all-weather Harpoon missiles, operated by more than 30 countries. The Pentagon notified the US Congress last year about its decision to sell 24 Harpoon missiles worth $200 million to the Indian Navy for the submarines through the foreign military sales route. There are different variants of the missile for aircraft, ships and submarines.
The US is currently the biggest supplier of weapons to the Indian military, having won deals worth over $10 billion during the last six years. US defence secretary Ashton Carter is expected to arrive in India on June 2 on a visit aimed at strengthening military ties.
India and the US are expected to ink an amendment to the 2005 India-US Defence Framework Agreement, renewing the pact to deepen cooperation in several security-related areas.
The agreement, first signed in 2005, led to some major weapon sales to India and strengthened the overall strategic partnership.