Exocet

Exocet

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The Exocet is a French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

-built anti-ship missile
Anti-ship missile
Anti-ship missiles are guided missiles that are designed for use against ships and large boats. Most anti-ship missiles are of the sea-skimming type, many use a combination of inertial guidance and radar homing...

 whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Hundreds were fired in combat during the 1980s.

Etymology


The missile's name was given by M. Guillot, then the technical director at Nord Aviation
Nord Aviation
Nord-Aviation was a state-owned French aircraft manufacturer. It was created on October 1, 1954 upon the acquisition of SFECMAS by SNCAN...

. It is the French word for flying fish from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 name exocoetus, a transliteration of the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 name for flying fish , which literally means "lying down outside (ἒξω, κεῖμαι), sleeping outside" because it sometimes stranded itself in boats.

Description



The Exocet is built by MBDA
MBDA
MBDA is a missile developer and manufacturer with operations in France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and the United States. It was formed by a merger of Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles , Finmeccanica and Matra BAe Dynamics in December 2001. In 2003 the company had 10,000 employees...

, a European missile company. Development began in 1967 by Nord as a ship-launched missile named MM 38. A few years later Aerospatiale and Nord merged. The basic missile body design was based on the Nord AS30 air to ground tactical missile. The air-launched Exocet was developed in 1974 and entered service with the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 five years later.

The relatively compact missile is designed for attacking small- to medium-size warship
Warship
A warship is a ship that is built and primarily intended for combat. Warships are usually built in a completely different way from merchant ships. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more maneuvrable than merchant ships...

s (e.g. frigates, corvettes, and destroyers), although multiple hits are effective against larger vessels, such as aircraft carriers. It is guided inertially in mid-flight and turns on active radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 late in its flight to find and hit its target. As a counter measure against the air defence around the target, it maintains a very low altitude during ingress, staying 1–2 m above the sea surface. Due to the effect of the radar horizon
Radar horizon
The radar Horizon is a critical area of performance for aircraft detection systems that is defined by the distance at which the radar beam raise enough above the Earth surface to make detection of a target at low level impossible. It is associated with the low elevation region of performance and...

, this means that the target may not detect an incoming attack until the missile is only 6000 m from impact. This leaves little time for reaction and stimulated the design of CIWS.

Its solid propellant
Solid rocket
A solid rocket or a solid-fuel rocket is a rocket engine that uses solid propellants . The earliest rockets were solid-fuel rockets powered by gunpowder; they were used by the Chinese in warfare as early as the 13th century and later by the Mongols, Arabs, and Indians.All rockets used some form of...

 engine gives the Exocet a maximum range of 70 km (43.5 mi; 37.8 nmi). The solid-propellant engine was replaced on the Block 3 MM40 ship-launched version of the missile with a solid-propellant booster and a turbojet sustainer engine which extends the range to 180 km (111.8 mi; 97.2 nmi). The submarine-launched version places the missile inside a launch capsule
Launch capsule
A launch capsule is used to propel a submarine-launched missile to the ocean surface. Upon reaching the surface, the capsule is jettisoned, and the missile continues its journey propelled by the booster motor....

.

The Exocet has been manufactured in a number of versions, including:
  • MM38 (surface-launched)
  • AM38 (helicopter-launched - tested only)
  • AM39 (air-launched)
  • SM39 (submarine-launched)
  • MM40 (surface-launched)


The chief competitors to the Exocet are the U.S.-made Harpoon, and the Chinese Yingji
C-802
The Yingji-82 or YJ-82 is a Chinese anti-ship missile first unveiled in 1989 by the China Haiying Electro-Mechanical Technology Academy , also known as the Third Academy...

 series.

MM40 Block 3


The newest MM40 version (MM40 block 3) has an improved range of 180 km (111.8 mi; 97.2 nmi) through the use of a turbojet engine, and includes four air intakes to provide continuous airflow to the engine during high-G maneuvers.

The Block 3 missiles accept GPS guidance system waypoint commands, which allow them to attack naval targets from different angles and to strike land targets, giving them a marginal role as a land-attack missile
Land-attack missile
A land-attack missile is a naval surface-to-surface missile that is capable of effectively attacking targets ashore, unlike specialised anti-ship missiles, which are optimized for striking other ships. Some dual-role missiles are suitable for both missions....

. The Block 3 Exocet is lighter than the previous MM40 Block 2 Exocets.

The 45 Block 3 Exocets were ordered by the French Navy in December 2008. These are not to be new productions but the conversion of older Block 2 missiles to the Block 3 standard. The first firing of the Block 3 from a warship took place on March 18, 2010, from the French Navy air defense frigate Chevalier Paul. Besides the French Navy, the Block 3 has been ordered by the navies of Greece, the UAE, Perú, Qatar, Oman and Morocco.

Falklands War


In 1982, during the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

, the Exocet became noted worldwide when Argentine Navy
Argentine Navy
The Navy of the Argentine Republic or Armada of the Argentine Republic is the navy of Argentina. It is one of the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Argentine Republic, together with the Army and the Air Force....

 Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard warplanes carrying the AM39 Air Launched version of Exocet caused irreparable damage and disabled the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 destroyer HMS Sheffield
HMS Sheffield (D80)
HMS Sheffield was the second Royal Navy ship to be named after the city of Sheffield in Yorkshire. She was a Type 42 Guided Missile Destroyer laid down by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering at Barrow-in-Furness on 15 January 1970, launched on 10 June 1971 and commissioned on 16 February 1975.An...

 on 4 May 1982; and when the 15,000 ton merchant ship Atlantic Conveyor
Atlantic Conveyor
The Atlantic Conveyor was a British merchant navy ship, registered in Liverpool, that was requisitioned during the Falklands War and sunk on 25 May 1982 after being hit by two Argentine Exocet missiles, killing 12 sailors...

 was struck by two Exocet anti-ship missiles on 25 May. Two MM38 ship-to-ship Exocet missiles were removed from the old destroyer ARA Seguí
USS Hank (DD-702)
USS Hank , an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, was named for Lieutenant Commander William Hank.Hank was launched 21 May 1944 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Kearny, New Jersey; sponsored by Mrs. William Edwin Hank, widow of Lieutenant Commander Hank; and commissioned on 28 August...

, a retired US Sumner class
Allen M. Sumner class destroyer
The Allen M. Sumner class was a group of 58 destroyers built by the United States during World War II. Another twelve ships were completed as destroyer minelayers...

, and transferred to an improvised launcher for land use. One of these was fired at, and caused damage to, the destroyer HMS Glamorgan on 12 June.

The Exocet that struck HMS Sheffield impacted on the second deck, 2.4 metre above the waterline and penetrated deeply into Sheffields control room, near the forward engine room, creating a hole in the hull roughly 1.2 by. It appears that the warhead did not explode. Accounts suggest that the initial impact of the missile destroyed the ship's electrical generation systems and fractured the water main, preventing the fire suppresion mechanisms from operating and dooming the ship to be consumed by the fire. The loss of Sheffield was a shock to the British.

Some of the crew of Sheffield were of the opinion that the missile exploded, others held the view that it had not. The official Royal Navy Board of Enquiry Report, however, stated that evidence indicates that the warhead did not detonate. During the four and a half days that the ship remained afloat, five salvage inspections were made and a number of photographs were taken. Members of the crew were interviewed, and testimony was given by Exocet specialists (note that the Royal Navy had 15 surface combat ships that were Exocet-armed in the Falklands War). There was no evidence of explosion although burning propellant from the rocket motor had caused a number of fires, which continued unchecked as a result of a punctured fire main.

The Exocet that struck Glamorgan detonated (indeed a number of crew witnessed this, as did the Argentines who fired it, the whole event being recorded by a film crew) on the port side of the hangar deck, punching a hole in the deck and galley below, causing fires. The missile body traveled into the hangar and caused a fully fueled and armed Wessex helicopter
Westland Wessex
The Westland Wessex is a British turbine-powered version of the Sikorsky S-58 "Choctaw", developed under license by Westland Aircraft , initially for the Royal Navy, and later for the Royal Air Force...

 to explode. Prompt action of the officers and men at the helm had saved the ship. With less than a minute's warning the incoming missile had been being tracked on radar in the operations room and bridge; as the ship was travelling at speed, a turn was ordered to present her stern to the missile. The ship was heeled far over to starboard when the missile struck. The missile hit the coaming
Coaming
Coaming is any vertical surface on a ship designed to deflect or prevent entry of water. It usually refers to raised section of deck plating around an opening, such as a hatch...

 and was deflected upwards. The dent caused by the impact was clearly visible when Glamorgan was refitted in late 1982.

In the years after the Falklands War it was revealed that the British government and the Secret Intelligence Service
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

 were extremely concerned by the perceived inadequacy of the Royal Navy's anti-missile defences against Exocet missiles and their potential to tip the naval war decisively in favour of Argentine forces. A scenario was envisioned in which one or both of the force’s two aircraft carriers (HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes
HMS Hermes (R12)
HMS Hermes was a Centaur-class British aircraft carrier, the last of the postwar conventional aircraft carriers commissioned into the Royal Navy.-Construction and modifications:...

) would be destroyed or incapacitated by Exocet attacks, which would make recapturing the Falklands much more difficult.

Actions were taken to contain the Exocet threat. During the preparation for the war Britain benefited from the help of France, which gave the Exocet's code and homing radar. A major intelligence operation was also initiated to prevent the Argentine Navy from acquiring more on the international market. The operation included British intelligence agents claiming to be arms dealers able to supply large numbers of Exocet to Argentina, who diverted Argentina from pursuing sources which could genuinely supply a few missiles. France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 denied deliveries of Exocet AM39s purchased by Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

 to avoid the possibility of them getting to Argentina.

Iran-Iraq War



Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 fired an estimated 200 air-launched Exocet missiles against Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian shipping during the Iran–Iraq War with varying levels of success. Tankers and other civilian shipping were often hit.

On May 17, 1987, the pilot of an Iraqi Mirage F-1
Dassault Mirage F1
The Dassault Mirage F1 is a French air-superiority fighter and attack aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation as a successor of the Mirage III family. The Mirage F1 entered service in the French Air Force in the early seventies...

 attacked
USS Stark Incident
The USS Stark Incident occurred during the Iran-Iraq War on May 17, 1987 when an Iraqi jet aircraft fired missiles at the American frigate USS Stark. Thirty-seven United States Navy personnel were killed and twenty-one others were wounded...

 the U.S. Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate
Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate
The Oliver Hazard Perry class is a class of frigates named after the American Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the naval Battle of Lake Erie...

  with two Exocets for unknown reasons. The first missile penetrated the port-side hull of the Stark. The second entered at almost the same point, and left a 3 by gash, exploding in crew quarters. Thirty-seven sailors were killed and 21 were injured. Stark was heavily damaged, but saved by the crew and sent back for repairs. At first, it was reported that the errant pilot had been executed for his error, and his explanations for the attack are not available. Later, Iraqi officials denied that the pilot had been executed and stated that he was still alive.

Operators





Current operators


: Argentine Navy
Argentine Navy
The Navy of the Argentine Republic or Armada of the Argentine Republic is the navy of Argentina. It is one of the three branches of the Armed Forces of the Argentine Republic, together with the Army and the Air Force....

 - MM38, MM40 and AM39
: Royal Brunei Navy
Royal Brunei Navy
The Royal Brunei Navy is the naval defence force of Brunei Darussalam. It is a small but relatively well-equipped force whose main responsibility is to conduct search and rescue missions and to deter and defend the Brunei waters against attack mounted by sea-borne forces.The Royal Brunei Navy was...

 - MM38, MM40

: Brazilian Navy
Brazilian Navy
The Brazilian Navy is a branch of the Brazilian Armed Forces responsible for conducting naval operations. It is the largest navy in Latin America...

 - MM38, MM40 Block 2 and AM39
: Cameroon Navy - MM38, MM40
: Chilean Navy
Chilean Navy
-Independence Wars of Chile and Peru :The Chilean Navy dates back to 1817. A year before, following the Battle of Chacabuco, General Bernardo O'Higgins prophetically declared "this victory and another hundred shall be of no significance if we do not gain control of the sea".This led to the...

 - MM38, AM39 and recently acquired SM39 for the Scorpène class submarine
Scorpène class submarine
Scorpène class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarine jointly developed by the French DCN and the Spanish company Navantia and now by DCNS. It features diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent propulsion ....

 . Previously used MM40. Is unknown if the missiles were sold along with the two Condell class frigates
Condell class frigate
The Condell class was the name given to a class of two new build and upgraded type Leander class frigates of the Chilean Navy, Almirante Condell and Almirante Lynch. They were ordered by the Chilean government in 1969 as ASW frigates. The ships were built between 1969 and 1973, under Chilean...

 to Ecuador
Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...



: Cyprus Navy - MM40
: MM40
: AM39, MM38 & MM40

: German Navy
German Navy
The German Navy is the navy of Germany and is part of the unified Bundeswehr .The German Navy traces its roots back to the Imperial Fleet of the revolutionary era of 1848 – 52 and more directly to the Prussian Navy, which later evolved into the Northern German Federal Navy...

 - To be replaced with RBS 15.
: Hellenic Navy
Hellenic Navy
The Hellenic Navy is the naval force of Greece, part of the Greek Armed Forces. The modern Greek navy has its roots in the naval forces of various Aegean Islands, which fought in the Greek War of Independence...

 - MM38, MM40 Block 2/3
Hellenic Air Force
Hellenic Air Force
The Hellenic Air Force, abbreviated to HAF is the air force of Greece. The mission of the Hellenic Air Force is to guard and protect Greek airspace, provide air assistance and support to the Hellenic Army and the Hellenic Navy, as well as the provision of humanitarian aid in Greece and around the...

 - AM39
: MM38 on Fatahillah class corvette, MM40 Block 2 (on Sigma class corvette
Sigma class corvette
- Modular design :The basic design of the Sigma Patrol Series can vary as the hull segments are designed as components. Ships can vary in the number of hull segments and in the order in which they are placed. Sigma stands for Ship Integrated Geometrical Modularity Approach...

)
: Indian Navy
Indian Navy
The Indian Navy is the naval branch of the armed forces of India. The President of India serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The Chief of Naval Staff , usually a four-star officer in the rank of Admiral, commands the Navy...

 (on Scorpène class submarine
Scorpène class submarine
Scorpène class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarine jointly developed by the French DCN and the Spanish company Navantia and now by DCNS. It features diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent propulsion ....

s)
: Iranian Air Force - Captured ex-Iraqi AM39 from rebellious ex-Iraqi Mirage F1
: Royal Malaysian Navy
Royal Malaysian Navy
The Royal Malaysian Navy is the naval arm of Malaysian Armed Forces. All commissioned ships of the RMN have the prefix KD , which means Royal Ship.-Straits Settlement Naval Volunteer Reserve:...

 - MM38, MM40 Block 2, SM39 (on Scorpène class submarine
Scorpène class submarine
Scorpène class submarines are a class of diesel-electric attack submarine jointly developed by the French DCN and the Spanish company Navantia and now by DCNS. It features diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent propulsion ....

s)
: Royal Moroccan Navy
Royal Moroccan Navy
The Royal Navy of Morocco is a branch of the military of Morocco responsible of conducting naval operations.The Royal Moroccan Navy is administratively managed by the Adminsitration of Defence, which is commanded by King Mohammed VI - Mission :The Royal Moroccan Navy is part of the Moroccan Armed...

 - MM38, MM40 Block 2/3,
Moroccan Air Force - AM39

: Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
The Pakistan Air Force is the leading air arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport...

 - AM39 (on Dassault Mirage 5
Dassault Mirage 5
The Dassault Mirage 5 is a supersonic attack aircraft designed in France by Dassault Aviation during the 1960s, and manufactured in France and a number of other countries. It was derived from Dassault's popular Mirage III fighter, and spawned several variants of its own.-Early development:The...

 (naval support fighters)
Pakistan Navy
Pakistan Navy
The Pakistan Navy is the naval warfare/service branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces. Pakistan's Navy is responsible for Pakistan's coastline along the Arabian Sea and the defense of important civilian harbors and military bases...

 - SM39 (on Agosta 90B submarines), AM39 (on Breguet Atlantic patrol aircraft)
: Peruvian Navy
Peruvian Navy
The Peruvian Navy is the branch of the Peruvian Armed Forces tasked with surveillance, patrol and defense on lakes, rivers and the Pacific Ocean up to 200 nautical miles from the Peruvian littoral...

 - MM38 on PR-72P class corvette
PR-72P class corvette
PR-72P class corvettes are French-designed warships in service with the Peruvian Navy. Six units were ordered in 1976 by the Peruvian Navy from the Société Française de Construction Navale . Subsequently, three of them were built by the company's own Villeneuve-de-Garonne shipyard, and the rest...

s, AM39 Block 1 on ASH-3D Sea Kings, MM40 Block 3 on Lupo class frigate
Lupo class frigate
The Lupo class is a class of frigates built by Cantieri Navali Riuniti for the Italian Navy. Designed as multipurpose warships with emphasis on anti-surface warfare , they have enjoyed some success in the export market, being acquired by the navies of Peru and Venezuela...

s

: South African Navy
South African Navy
The South African Navy is the navy of the Republic of South Africa.-Formation:The South African Navy can trace its official origins back to the SA Naval Service, which was established on 1 April 1922....

 - MM40 Block 2 on Valour class frigate
Valour class frigate
The South African Valour class frigates are the major surface ships of the South African Navy. Their German manufacturer designates these warships as the MEKO A-200SAN class, member of its MEKO family of naval ships...

s
: Republic of Korea Navy
Republic of Korea Navy
The Republic of Korea Navy or the ROK Navy is the branch of the South Korean armed forces responsible for conducting naval operations and amphibious landing operations. The ROK Navy includes the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, which is a quasi-autonomous organization...


: Royal Thai Navy
Royal Thai Navy
The Royal Thai Navy is the navy of Thailand and part of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, it was established in the late 19th century. Admiral Prince Abhakara Kiartiwongse is "The Father of Royal Thai Navy". Similar to the organizational structure of the United States, the Royal Thai Navy includes the...

 - MM38
: MM38
: UAE Navy MM40 Block 3 on Baynunah class corvette
Baynunah class corvette
The Baynunah class are corvettes for the United Arab Emirates' Navy. The lead ship is named after the Baynunah region in Abu Dhabi. Six ships are planned for this class. Sea trials are currently underway...



: Venezuelan Air Force - AM39 (on Dassault Mirage 50)

Former operators


: Belgian Navy
Belgian Navy
The Marine Component of the Belgian Army, formerly the Belgian Naval Force, is the naval service of Belgium.-Early history:The Belgian Navy was created as the Marine Royale in 1831. This force has operated in various forms throughout Belgian history.When after the Belgian Revolution, the country...

 operated Exocet on its Wielingen
Wielingen class frigate
The Wielingen class is a class of four multi-functional frigates built for the Belgian Navy. The ships are named after sandbanks in the North Sea, not far from the Belgian coast, or sea routes. The lead ship is named after the Wielingen sandbank....

 class frigates. Those warships were all sold in 2008

: Iraqi Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
The Iraqi Air Force or IQAF is the military branch in Iraq responsible for the policing of international borders, surveillance of national assets and aerial operations...

 - AM39 on Mirage F1
Dassault Mirage F1
The Dassault Mirage F1 is a French air-superiority fighter and attack aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation as a successor of the Mirage III family. The Mirage F1 entered service in the French Air Force in the early seventies...

 & Super Étendard
Dassault Super Étendard
The Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard is a French carrier-borne strike fighter aircraft designed for service with the French Navy...

 during Iran-Iraq War
Iran-Iraq War
The Iran–Iraq War was an armed conflict between the armed forces of Iraq and Iran, lasting from September 1980 to August 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the twentieth century...

, all retired.
: Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

operated Exocet until the last MM38 armed surface vessel was decommissioned in 2002.

External links