|In the mid-1960s, the United States Navy began preliminary studies towards the development of a missile that could be used against surfaced submarines. Since the naval
slang for submarines is “whales”, the project was given the name Harpoon. On October 21, 1967, the Israeli destroyer Eilat (ex-HMS Zealous) was sunk by three Soviet-
made Styx missiles launched by Egyptian Komar-class missile boats. This incident shocked senior United States Navy officers, who until then had not been conscious of
the threat posed by anti-ship missiles. In response to this new threat, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the Chief of Naval Operations, accelerated the development of the Harpoon
anti-ship missile system.
The shipborne Harpoon, RGM-84, is fitted with a solid-fuel rocket booster that detaches when expended to allow the missile's main turbojet to maintain flight. The
missiles are stored in ceramic armored canister launchers and four of these are fitted on the Mk. 141 launcher. The missiles were stored and fired from the canisters at a
fixed angle. While the Harpoon and its Mk. 141 launcher was developed for use on US Navy warships, such as the Ticonderoga class cruiser, as their principal anti-ship
weapon system, it is used by many allied navies around the world.