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How Many Harpoons Will It Take?


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First, I'm on the fence about whether I enjoy the current BOL. I put in the bearing to launch and if I've moved at all, the Harps comically go off target due to the drift. I guess that could be solved with autopilot and a good Hoyas though.

 

 

Now for the main course of this entree: How many of these does it take to sink the various ships? Not how many to overwhelm the defense, but actual hits. Seems the dry cargo ship for RU is down in 3 hits.

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The damage output of the Harpoons is incredible weak compared to the Viggen's anti ship missiles and it takes quite a number of hits to sink a russian warship. They're also much more susceptible to the ships defenses compared to the Viggen's anti ship missiles. Because of all this they're pretty useless atm. It's much more effective to use other weapons like Walleye, Maverick, LGBs, JSO or JDAM (especially the GBU-31/V bunker buster!).

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I put in the bearing to launch and if I've moved at all, the Harps comically go off target due to the drift.

 

Try using a Harpoon Steerpoint (I think thats what its called). The harpoon will fly there and then take up the selected bearing, meaning you can potentially fire from quite a large area - depending on distances - and it will still go where you want.

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Try using a Harpoon Steerpoint (I think thats what its called). The harpoon will fly there and then take up the selected bearing, meaning you can potentially fire from quite a large area - depending on distances - and it will still go where you want.

That's a good advice! It's called a Harpoon Turnpoint though ;)

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Checked somewhat recently. Values haven't changed a ton over the years.

Interesting!

Are those somewhat up to date values?

What about the RB-04E and RBS-15?

What Harpoon variant is our Lot20 Hornet using?

What about warhead types? Do they matter and differ between the missiles?

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Checked somewhat recently. Values haven't changed a ton over the years.

 

Hmm, AGM-84A appears twice and the only -84D we have is for the Hornet which should be an AGM-84D

 

Interesting!

What Harpoon variant is our Lot20 Hornet using?

 

The Hornet uses the AGM-84D (the first of the 3 letters denotes launch platform - A for aircraft, R for surface ships). The ships in DCS should be using the RGM-84A (though in DCS it's erroneously called the AGM-84S IIRC, which A.) isn't the correct designation for a ship launched missile (should be RGM instead of AGM), and B.) doesn't exist. Hopefully it'll get upgraded to the 84D so we have a common variant for ships and aircraft (the existing non-AGM-84D Harpoons all have outdated models). AFAIK the only difference between the -84A (Block 1) and -84D (Block 1C) is that the -84A always performs the pop-up manoeuvre and the -84D provides selectable pop-up or surface skimming, otherwise they're identical. Only real difference between the RGM-84s and AGM-84s is that the RGM-84s have folding wings/fins and control surfaces and a booster stage, aside from that AFAIK they're identical.


Edited by Northstar98

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The Hornet uses the AGM-84D (the first of the 3 letters denotes launch platform - A for aircraft, R for surface ships). The ships in DCS should be using the RGM-84A (though in DCS it erroneously calls it the AGM-84S IIRC, which A.) doesn't exist, and B.) isn't the correct designation for a ship launched missile - it should be RGM-84x). Hopefully that'll get upgraded to RGM-84D so we have a common Harpoon for both ships and aircraft. The model can even be copied and pasted, just adding a booster and folding fins/wings and control surfaces.

That's why I'm asking, because the AGM-84D is not included in Grimes' list. That's what makes me think that this is an older list bevore the playable Hornet and the AGM-84D as well as the Viggen and its anti ship missiles got released. Maybe the values for the AGM-84D that got introduced to DCS with the Lot20 Hornet are much different.

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That's why I'm asking, because the AGM-84D is not included in Grimes' list. That's what makes me think that this is an older list bevore the playable Hornet and the AGM-84D as well as the Viggen and its anti ship missiles got released. Maybe the values for the AGM-84D that got introduced to DCS with the Lot20 Hornet are much different.

 

My guess is that the RGM-84D is actually the AGM-84D for the Hornet, though the warhead is AFAIK identical for all Harpoon block 1 missiles (-84A through to -84D). It's confusing because the Harpoon launched from ships is erroneously given an AGM designation in DCS AFAIK.


Edited by Northstar98

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My guess is that the RGM-84D is actually the AGM-84D for the Hornet

I doubt that. AFAIK ED has made a new config for the Harpoon for our playable Hornet.

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It might have also been a typographical error. Occam's Razor.

 

Probably, though it's confusing nonetheless...

 

I doubt that. AFAIK ED has made a new config for the Harpoon for our playable Hornet.

 

Yep, pretty sure they did, probably just a typo.

 

To clarify the Harpoons we have in DCS should be:

  • AGM-84A (Harpoon Block 1A) - air launched, in DCS fired from AI F/A-18A/C (not Lot 20) and S-3B. Performs terminal pop-up manoeuvre.
  • AGM-84D (Harpoon Block 1C) identical to -84A apart from pop-up manoeuvre is selectable. In DCS only fired from F/A-18C Lot 20
  • RGM-84A, identical to AGM-84A but adapted for launch from surface ships (folding wings/fins and control surfaces, SRB stage)

 

Problem is Grimes' list has 2 AGM-84As and an RGM-84D. Only -84D we have is an air launched one for the F/A-18C module.

 

I also know that at least in the F10 map the ship launched Harpoon (RGM-84A AFAIK) is called AGM-84S which A.) denotes an air launched missile, not a ship launched missile B.) -84S doesn't exist.


Edited by Northstar98

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Grimes,

 

Thank you for the VERY useful chart! I think it shows what I've been suspecting for a bit of time: Harpoons have some use, but as pilots if we're fighting warships this is going to be a massive undertaking to deal with some of the heavier defense systems.

 

Everyone else: I mean, a flight of 4 can launch 16 missiles. So a pearl harbor-esque over the horizon strike could possibly wreck a defending group. Especially if we arent launching it like AI, and changing the directions a bit.

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Fixed-wing aircraft (the AGM-84, without the solid-fuel rocket booster)

Surface ships (the RGM-84, fitted with a solid-fuel rocket booster that detaches when expended, to allow the missile's main turbojet to maintain flight)

Submarines (the UGM-84, fitted with a solid-fuel rocket booster and encapsulated in a container to enable submerged launch through a torpedo tube);

Coastal defense batteries, from which it would be fired with a solid-fuel rocket booster.

 

In fact, the actual AGM-84S has a RGM version.

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Grimes,

 

Thank you for the VERY useful chart! I think it shows what I've been suspecting for a bit of time: Harpoons have some use, but as pilots if we're fighting warships this is going to be a massive undertaking to deal with some of the heavier defense systems.

 

Everyone else: I mean, a flight of 4 can launch 16 missiles. So a pearl harbor-esque over the horizon strike could possibly wreck a defending group. Especially if we arent launching it like AI, and changing the directions a bit.

 

The other thing to keep in mind is the damage modelling for ships leaves a lot to be desired, the HP system is about as crude as you can make it. That and the damage from the Harpoon is pretty damn weak, the RB-04E and RB-15F both have slightly smaller warheads but their damage in DCS is buffed to better reflect the performance of the missile.

 

One thing to bear in mind is that AShM can be extremely effective at mission-killing a ship by destroying important systems and result in flooding even from hits above the waterline (burst water mains, cracking from shock/vibrations), which will put the ship more-or-less out of action, even if it doesn't sink.

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Lunatic,

 

I definitely agree that damage modeling leaves something to be desired. Perhaps we will begin to see that, or even a basic subsystem or critical hit %. I think its important to keep it in perspective too. We had no need for the ships to be anything other than a basic target for some AI units. Ka-50 and A-10c were CAS. FC3 was mostly A2A. The naval stuff is fairly new.

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As things are fleshed out, I think you'll be pleased with the final results.

Also, launching a shit ton of HARMS at the Kuz while su33s are trying to take off will be worth its weight in GOLD.

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In fact, the actual AGM-84S has a RGM version.

 

Citation? I've yet to see an -84S anywhere, I've seen A, D, F, G, L and M (SLAM and SLAM-ER variants omitted).

 

Plus since 1963 the US has used the tri-service missile and drone designation system to designate it's missiles how it works is actually pretty simple and makes it very easy.

 

The first letter denotes launch platform, common ones among others are:

  • A - air-launched
  • R - surface-ship launched
  • U - submerged launch
  • B - multiple launch platforms

 

The second letter denotes the role common ones among others are:

  • I - intercept-aerial - designed to attack aerial targets
  • G - surface attack (both land attack and anti-ship)
  • Q - for drones (unmanned target surveillance and reconnaissance, also used for targets/decoys)
  • U - underwater attack - designed to attack submarines

 

The third letter denotes what it is. In DCS we only really have M - for guided missile (there's also R for rocket (unguided) and N or probe (non-orbital).

 

If the AGM-84S (if it exists) can be launched from a ship (highly doubtful before we start) the correct designation for a weapon that has multiple launch platforms (without modification AFAIK) is BGM-xxx. Note that M is also used for some glide-bombs (JSOW and Walleye, even though glide bombs don't have any thing in terms of self-propulsion, they use simply inertia and lift).


Edited by Northstar98

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When I learned F/A-18C module was getting AGM-84D, I saw this video to establish my expectations.

 

 

After trying in DCS world, my expectations were violated.

 

Look up some US Navy SINKEX videos on YouTube, they're one of the best windows we'll ever get into what kind of damage a warship can take short of joining the Navy and going to war.

 

They pretty much always go along the lines of: "we blew the **** out of it with missiles, bombs, and shells; then sank it with a torpedo."

 

Lunatic is right on here. Anti-ship missiles are great at breaking things on warships and taking them out of the fight, but they're not as good at actually sinking them. Look at the USS Stark for example - after getting hit by one and a half Exocets it didn't sink, but it certainly was not capable of fighting anymore.

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Look up some US Navy SINKEX videos on YouTube, they're one of the best windows we'll ever get into what kind of damage a warship can take short of joining the Navy and going to war.

 

They pretty much always go along the lines of: "we blew the **** out of it with missiles, bombs, and shells; then sank it with a torpedo."

 

Lunatic is right on here. Anti-ship missiles are great at breaking things on warships and taking them out of the fight, but they're not as good at actually sinking them. Look at the USS Stark for example - after getting hit by one and a half Exocets it didn't sink, but it certainly was not capable of fighting anymore.

 

I would be very happy if a couple direct hits with AGM-84D would incapacitate and render their defenses out of order.

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I would be very happy if a couple direct hits with AGM-84D would incapacitate and render their defenses out of order.

 

Oh I have a long wishlist for improving ship damage models.

 

We can start by replacing the unit health-bar with multiple hitboxes with their own health-bars; ideally corresponding to individual systems/subsystems such as individual weapon mounts, individual antennae, maybe things like engines, bridge, ops/CIC, magazines. Once that health-bar gets below a certain threshold the corresponding system stops working - this should make the Harpoon a lot more effective, even if it doesn't sink ships.

 

For things like RADAR antennae, ARMs would need to actually home in on them (like they do in reality) instead of just targeting centre of mass for a unit like they currently do in DCS.

 

 

In order to make sinkings more realistic you could also have hitboxes corresponding to hull compartments to at least a coarse level of accuracy (in fact you'd only really need a bow, stern, + 3 between on each side for a total of 8) and have the ship list based on the values of the hitboxes, instead of sinking the same juddery way and then disappearing with a splash, regardless of where and what hit it.

 

 

I would also like to say that an anti-ship missile can absolutely sink a ship if flooding is not controlled (the USS Stark developed a heavy list, and it's the actions of her crew that saved her. Also bear in mind that a Harpoon has a larger warhead than an Exocet (by about 34%, in fact it's larger than both the RB-04E and RB-15F). You might not get much flooding from an impact hole above the waterline, what you will get are burst high-pressure water mains and possibly even hull cracking, that's where you'll most likely get heavy flooding from - without containment this could sink a ship with a single weapon. It's also possible with larger warheads, especially ones that get to penetrate before detonating, to buckle and breach bulkheads (enclosed explosions are how bunker-busters are so effective) not to mention starting large fires. Then we have vibrations which provides an additional source of damage to more sensitive components.

 

When it comes to losing a ship or sinking a ship, really damage control is the king-pin here, if flooding isn't contained and isn't contained fast enough, you can still sink a ship with a single weapon - HMS Sheffield (a Type 42 Batch 1 destroyer) took a single Exocet, which primarily caused a large fire, due to the shock and vibration from the impact, the high pressure water main was fractured, and all of the main pumps which were working also failed due to damage sustained from the impact, severely restricting the ability to fight the fires. The crew of Sheffield battled the fires for 4 hours to no avail before abandoning the ship. The ship eventually sank due to water-ingress through the impact gash, while under tow in heavy seas.

 

image.jpg

 

 

The one that always gets mentioned as an example proving that AShMs maybe aren't all they're cracked up to be in terms of sinking ships is the Iranian frigate Sahand which took a hell of a lot - in total 3 Harpoons (~Mk83 equivalent), 4 AGM-123 Skipper IIs (rocket propelled Mk83 LGB) and 2 Rockeye CBUs (which would've probably shredded pretty much everything), even after all that, it was still afloat. But here's the thing, after all that this is what it looked like:

 

1280px-Bild-Prayingmantis5sahand.jpg

 

Aerial_view_of_Iranian_frigate_Sahand_burning_after_air_attack_Operation_Praying_Mantis_DN-SN-89-03125.jpg

 

I mean, it's gone, there's nothing left, the superstructure has basically been razed and the whole ship is burning, there probably isn't a single piece of equipment working on the ship, let alone it's armament or RADARs. I'm going to speculate that the ship remaining afloat is either pure chance (the next ship on the list went down far quicker, with much less ordnance, suggesting that location of damage is almost as, if not more important than warhead size) or just incredible damage control on the part of the Iranians. Otherwise even if still afloat that ship isn't coming back.

 

Another case study is HMS Coventry (again a Type 42 Batch 1 destroyer) capsized and sank after 20 minutes after taking 2 1000Ib bomb explosions (~Mk83 equivalent, which is still shy of the Harpoon's warhead weight). The first took out the ops room (CIC equivalent on US vessels), which would've rendered the ship unable to fight in it's own right. The 2nd bomb exploded in one of the 2 engine rooms and breached the watertight bulkhead connecting the 2, leading to rapid and uncontrollable flooding in the largest spaces on the ship, which Coventry simply couldn't survive. This really shows how location can prove to be a deciding factor, because it opened up a very large space to uncontrollable flooding the ship simply couldn't be saved, and it's why it went down so quickly.

 

 

I just can't imagine frigates taking much more than 2 Harpoons and still being able to fight, even if they don't sink for some time. Smaller vessels like missile boats and corvettes like the Grisha, I'd be surprised if they survived one. Things like Mavericks (particularly variants with larger warheads) should be enough to inflict major damage on frigates and smaller vessels.

 

Again, warhead size, location and secondary effects are ultimately what's going to actually sink a ship, if ordnance hits the superstructure, I'd say it's not all that likely that the ship will sink, not unless the impact cracks/tears the hull (either from shock or heavy vibrations), you'll burst a water main, but these are easier (I imagine) to secure and contain, though it will probably degrade fire fighting capability. What is more likely to happen are major fires and mission critical subsystems being destroyed. Impacts to the hull, even above the water line are more likely to actually sink the ship, simply because the hull is more likely to be heavily damaged from an impact - it's more likely that you'll get cracking/tearing it's also more likely that pipes carrying lots of water will fracture. Adding to that you'll still get the large fires, only now they're in the bowls of the ship, plus there's a possibility of bulkheads being breached.

 

Another thing to take note of is that some ships have localised graphical damage, I am uncertain if this affects the actual systems that appear to be visually destroyed, I'll do some testing, I know I've had several Harpoons (>3) impact 1-2 metres from a pair of AK-630s and they were still functioning, I would expect in reality that their hydraulic lines would rupture (perhaps contributing to fire), and control electronics destroyed and maybe even secondary explosions from ammunition cook-offs from the first Harpoon.


Edited by Northstar98

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I know improved damage models for ships (along with basically everything else) is in the works. But who knows how long until we see it.

 

I just can't imagine frigates taking much more than 2 Harpoons and still being able to fight, even if they don't sink for some time. Smaller vessels like missile boats and corvettes like the Grisha, I'd be surprised if they survived one. Things like Mavericks (particularly variants with larger warheads) should be enough to inflict major damage on frigates and smaller vessels.

 

Yup. Really, from a tactical standpoint, sending a ship to the bottom isn't actually all that important. Just a few missile hits is likely to disable critical sensors and weapons and occupy a significant portion of the crew with damage control. Ships that have taken one or two hits typically seem to take months to repair, which from a tactical standpoint is basically the equivalent of sinking it.

 

And the usefulness of Mavericks against ships is, I think, why the Navy exclusively uses versions with larger warheads and with IR sensors specifically tweaked for targeting ships.


Edited by Bunny Clark
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And the usefulness of Mavericks against ships is, I think, why the Navy exclusively uses versions with larger warheads and with IR sensors specifically tweaked for targeting ships.

 

The F Maverick on the Hornet is indeed tuned for surface shipping, and it carries over half the warhead of a Harpoon (it actually has a larger warhead weight than the KDA NSM AShM, plus it has a delayed action impact fuze, allowing it to penetrate before exploding). But I imagine it being especially lethal, to corvettes like the Grisha, Tarantul and Nanuchka class (for the Grisha and Nanuchka I would imagine they would suffer major mission-killing damage, with a single missile, again location dependent). For frigates I can imagine significant damage, but maybe requiring multiple shots for a mission kill


Edited by Northstar98

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