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exocet missile, exocet kit car
solid propellant engine

turbojet MM40 Block 3 version Wingspan 11 metres 3 ft 7 in Operational
range 70–180 kilometres 43–112 mi; 38–97 nmi Flight altitude Sea-skimming Speed Mach 092
1,134 kilometres per hour 705 mph; 315 m/s Guidance
system Inertial guidance and terminal active radar homing Launch


  • MM38 surface-launched
  • AM39 air-launched
  • SM39 submarine-launched
  • MM40 surface-launched

The Exocet French for "flying fish"1 is a French-built anti-ship missile whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Description
    • 21 Versions
    • 22 MM40 Block 3
  • 3 Operational history
    • 31 The Falklands War
    • 32 Lokata Company
    • 33 Iran–Iraq War
  • 4 Operators
    • 41 Current operators
    • 42 Former operators
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


The missile's name was given by M Guillot, then the technical director at Nord Aviation1 It is the French word for flying fish from the Latin name exocoetus, a transliteration of the Greek name for flying fish ἐξώκοιτος exōkoitos, which literally means "lying down outside ἒξω, κεῖμαι, sleeping outside", because it sometimes stranded itself in boats2

Exocet missile launch


The Exocet is built by MBDA, a European missile company Development began in 1967 by Nord as a ship-launched weapon named the MM 38 A few years later Aerospatiale and Nord merged The basic 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 five years later3

The relatively compact missile is designed for attacking small- to medium-size warships eg, frigates, corvettes and destroyers, although multiple hits are effective against larger vessels, such as aircraft carriers45 It is guided inertially in mid-flight and turns on active radar late in its flight to find and hit its target As a countermeasure against air defence around the target, it maintains a very low altitude during ingress, staying one–two m above the sea surface Due to the effect of the radar horizon, this means that the target may not detect an incoming attack until the missile is only 6,000 m from impact This leaves little time for reaction and stimulated the design of close-in weapon systems CIWS

Its rocket motor, which is fuelled by solid propellant, gives the Exocet a maximum range of 70 kilometres 43 mi; 38 nmi It was replaced on the Block 3 MM40 ship-launched version of the missile with a solid-propellant booster and a turbojet sustainer motor which extends the range of the missile to more than 180 kilometres 110 mi; 97 nmi The submarine-launched version places the missile inside a launch capsule


The Exocet has been manufactured in a number of versions, including:

  • MM38 surface-launched – deployed on warships Range: 42 km No longer produced 1970 A coast defence version known as "Excalibur" was developed in the United Kingdom and deployed in Gibraltar from 1985–19976
  • AM38 helicopter-launched – tested only7
  • AM39 air-launched – B2 Mod 2: deployed on 14 types of aircraft combat jets, maritime patrol aircraft, helicopters Range between 50 and 70 km, depending on the altitude and the speed of the launch aircraft
  • SM39 submarine-launched – B2 Mod 2: deployed on submarines The missile is housed inside a watertight launched capsule VSM or véhicule Sous marin, which is fired by the submarine's torpedo-launch tubes On leaving the water, the capsule is ejected and the missile's motor is ignited It then behaves like an MM40 The missile will be fired at depth, which makes it particularly suitable for discreet submarine operations
  • MM40 surface-launched – Block 1, Block 2 and Block 3: deployed on warships and in coastal batteries Range: 72 km for the Block 2, in excess of 180 km for the Block3

MM40 Block 3edit

In February 2004, the Délégation Générale pour l'Armement DGA notified MBDA of a contract for the design and production of a new missile, the MM40 Block 3 It has an improved range, in excess of 180 kilometres 97 nautical miles—through the use of a turbojet engine, and includes four air intakes to provide a continuous airflow to the power plant during high-G manoeuvers

The Block 3 missile accepts GPS guidance system waypoint commands, which allow it to attack naval targets from different angles and to strike land targets, giving it a marginal role as a land-attack missile The Block 3 Exocet is lighter than the previous MM40 Block 2 Exocet89

45 Block 3 Exocets were ordered by the French Navy in December 2008 for its ships which were carrying Block 2 missiles, namely Horizon-class and Aquitaine-class frigates These are not to be new productions but the conversion of older Block 2 missiles to the Block 3 standard A MM40 Block 3 last qualification firing took place on the Île du Levant test range on 25 April 2007 and series manufacturing began in October 2008 The first firing of the Block 3 from a warship took place on 18 March 2010, from the French Navy air defense frigate Chevalier Paul In 2012, a new motor, designed and manufactured in Brazil by the Avibras company in collaboration with MBDA, was tested on an MM40 missile of the Brazilian Navy

Sue 204 Super Étendard of Argentina's 2nd Navy Squadron, used in the Atlantic Conveyor attack

Beside the French, the Block 3 has been ordered by several other navies including that of Greece, the UAE, Chile,10 Peru,11 Qatar, Oman, Indonesia and Morocco12

The chief competitors to the Exocet are the US-made Harpoon, the Swedish RBS-15 and the Chinese Yingji series

Operational historyedit

The Falklands Waredit

In 1982, during the Falklands War, the Exocet became noted worldwide when Argentine Navy Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard warplanes carrying the AM39 Air Launched version of the Exocet caused irreparable damage which sank the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Sheffield on 4 May 1982 Two Exocets then struck the 15,000 ton merchant ship Atlantic Conveyor on 25 May Two MM38 ship-to-ship Exocet missiles were removed from the old destroyer ARA Seguí, a retired US Navy Allen M Sumner-class vessel and transferred to an improvised launcher for land use,13 a technically challenging task which also required reprogramming14 One of these was fired at, and caused damage to, the destroyer HMS Glamorgan on 12 June

The Exocet that struck the Sheffield impacted on the starboard side at deck level 2, travelling through the junior ratings scullery and breaching the Forward Auxiliary Machinery Room/Forward Engine Room bulkhead 24 metres 7 ft 10 in above the waterline, creating a hole in the hull roughly 12 by 3 metres 39 by 98 ft It appears that the warhead did not explode15 Accounts suggest that the initial impact of the missile disabled the ship's electrical distribution systems and breached the pressurised sea water fire main, severely hampering any firefighting response and eventually dooming the ship to be consumed by the fire The loss of Sheffield was a deep shock to the British public and government

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 Inquiry Report, however, stated that evidence indicates that the warhead did not detonate During the 4 1/2 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 the Royal Navy had 15 surface combat ships armed with Exocets in the Falklands War There was no evidence of an explosion, although burning propellant from the rocket motor had caused a number of fires, which could not be checked as a fire main had been put out of action

The Atlantic Conveyor was a container ship that had been hastily converted to an aircraft transport and was carrying helicopters and supplies The missiles had been fired at a frigate, but had been confused by the frigate's defences and instead targeted the Atlantic Conveyor nearby The Exocets—it is not certain whether the warheads exploded or not—caused a fire in the fuel and ammunition aboard which burnt the ship out Atlantic Conveyor sank while under tow three days later

Exocet impact

The Exocet that struck Glamorgan detonated, a number of crew members witnessed this, as did the Argentines who fired it,14 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 travelled into the hangar and caused a fully fuelled and armed Wessex helicopter to explode Prompt action by the officers and men at the helm saved the ship With less than a minute's warning, the incoming missile had been 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 missile16 The ship was heeled far over to starboard when the missile struck It hit the coaming 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 had been extremely concerned at the time by the perceived inadequacy of the Royal Navy's anti-missile defences against the Exocet and its potential to tip the naval war decisively in favour of the Argentine forces A scenario was envisioned in which one or both of the force's two aircraft carriers Invincible and Hermes were destroyed or incapacitated by Exocet attacks, which would make recapturing the Falklands much more difficult

Actions were taken to contain the Exocet threat A major intelligence operation was also initiated to prevent the Argentine Navy from acquiring more of the weapons on the international market17 The operation included British intelligence agents claiming to be arms dealers able to supply large numbers of Exocets to Argentina, who diverted Argentina from pursuing sources which could genuinely supply a few missiles France denied deliveries of Exocet AM39s purchased by Peru to avoid the possibility of Peru giving them to Argentina, because they knew that payment would be made with a credit card from the Central Bank of Peru British intelligence had detected the guarantee was a deposit of two hundred million dollars from the Andean Lima Bank, an owned subsidiary of the Banco Ambrosiano1819

Lokata Companyedit

Main article: Lokata Company

In about 1983, the Lokata Company a maker of boat navigation equipment, independently duplicated part of the Exocet's navigation system; it caused official complications20

Iran–Iraq Waredit

Main article: USS Stark incident

During the Iran–Iraq War, on 17 May 1987, an Iraqi jet aircraft fired Exocet missiles at the American frigate USS Stark 37 United States Navy personnel were killed and 21 others were wounded


Map with Exocet operators in blue and former operators in red MM38 onboard German Navy S74 Nerz, Type 143A Gepard-class fast attack craft AM39 under a Dassault Rafale External images
Aerospatiale EXOCET
AM 39 Exocet launched from French Navy Super Etendard
Alpha Jet Lancier multi-role with Exocet AM 39
AM 39 launched from Super Puma
Exocet MM 40 fired from French vessel
Test firing of SM 39 subsurface version of Exocet high resolution
Aerospatiale Media Relations Photo Sent Out Shortly After Falkland's War
Super Etendard taking off with test AM39 under wing Note, electronic pod under fuselage and drop tank under other wing pylon
Impact of a MM40 on a target ship
First test launch of Exocet MM40 Block 3

Current operatorsedit

 Argentina Argentine Navy – MM38, MM40 and AM39  Brunei Royal Brunei Navy – MM38, MM40  Bulgaria Bulgarian Navy  Brazil Brazilian Navy – MM38, MM40 Block 2 and AM39, SM-39  Cameroon Cameroon Navy – MM38, MM40 on P-48S Bakassi craft  Chile Chilean Navy – AM39, MM40 block-2, and SM39 for the Scorpène-class submarine  Colombia  Cyprus Cyprus Navy – MM40  Ecuador MM40  Egypt AM39,21 MM38 & MM40  France French Navy – MM38, MM40, AM39, SM39  Germany German Navy – To be replaced with the RBS 15  Greece Hellenic Navy – MM38, MM40 Block 2/3
Hellenic Air Force – AM39  Indonesia MM38 on Fatahillah-class corvette,22 MM40 Block 2 on Sigma-class corvette, MM40 Block 3 on Martadinata class frigate23  India Indian Navy on Scorpène-class submarines  Iran Iranian Air Force – Acquired ex-Iraqi AM39 from ex-Iraqi Mirage F1's; these aircraft sought sanctuary during the 2nd Persian Gulf War  Kuwait  Libya  Malaysia Royal Malaysian Navy – MM38, MM40 Block 2, MM40 Block 3 and SM39 on Scorpène-class submarines24  Morocco Royal Moroccan Navy – MM38, MM40 Block 2/3,
Moroccan Air Force – AM39  Oman  Pakistan Pakistan Naval Air Arm – AM39 on Mirage-5V naval support fighters
Pakistan Navy – SM39 on Agosta 90B Khalid class submarines, AM39 on Breguet Atlantic patrol aircraft  Peru Peruvian Navy – MM38 on PR-72P-class corvettes, AM39 Block 2 on ASH-3D Sea Kings and Mirage 2000P, MM40 Block 3 on Lupo-class frigates  Qatar  South Africa South African Navy – MM40 Block 2 on Valour-class frigates25 The navy plans to upgrade to the Block 3 missile26  South Korea Republic of Korea Navy  Thailand Royal Thai Navy – MM38  Tunisia MM-40 Exocet for the Combattante-3 FACs21  Turkey MM382728  Vietnam Vietnam People's Navy MM40 Block 3 on Sigma-class corvette29  United Arab Emirates UAE Navy MM40 Block 3 on Baynunah-class corvette  Uruguay National Navy of Uruguay – MM38 on João Belo-class frigates

Former operatorsedit

 Belgium Belgian Navy operated Exocet on its Wielingen-class frigates These warships were all sold in 2008 to Bulgaria  Georgia  Iraq Iraqi Air Force – AM39 on Mirage F1, Super Étendard and Super Frelon during the Iran–Iraq War, all retired  United Kingdom Royal Navy operated Exocet until the last MM38 armed surface vessel was decommissioned in 2002  Venezuela Venezuelan Air Force – AM39 on Dassault Mirage 50

See alsoedit

  • Otomat
  • Sea Eagle
  • Sea Killer
  • C-802
  • RBS-15
  • SS-N-25
  • Harpoon
  • Type 80 Air-to-Ship Missile
  • Type 88 Surface-to-Ship Missile
  • Type 90 Ship-to-Ship Missile
  • Type 93 Air-to-Ship Missile
  • Naval Strike Missile


  1. ^ a b Guillot, Jean; Estival, Bernard 1988 L’extraordinaire aventure de l’Exocet Les éditions de la Cité ISBN 2-85186-039-9  The missile's name was given by M Guillot, then technical director at Nord Aviation, after the French name for flying fish
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas "Exocet" Online Etymology Dictionary 
  3. ^ Exocet MM40
  4. ^ Norman Friedman, The Naval Guide to World Weapons Systems – 1994 Update, page 109 Naval Institute Press 1994
  5. ^ "1994 Update" has a recent study by the Russians about the effect of missile boat anti-ship missiles three hits to destroy a light cruiser, one to two hits for a destroyer or frigate Russian missile boat anti-ship missile have far larger warheads than the Exocet
  6. ^ Friedman, Norman 1997, The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapons Systems, 1997–1998, The US Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland, ISBN 1-55750-268-4 p227
  7. ^ Based on the ship launched MM38 Only five tested in 1973 from a Super-Felon helicopter, further development then abandon for the lighter and smaller AM39 Ronald T Pretty editor Jane's Weapon Systems 1976 page 133
  8. ^ "Google Translate" 
  9. ^ "V - Cruise Missiles: The Other Air Breathing Threat" ATTACK AIRCRAFT PROLIFERATION: ISSUES FOR CONCERN Christopher Bolkcom and John Pike 1 April 1993 Retrieved 2009-02-10 
  10. ^ "Chile begins MM40 Block 3 Exocet retrofits - IHS Jane's 360" 
  11. ^ Defensacom: Perú aprueba 41 millones de dólares para Defensa y se hará finalmente con misiles MM-40 Exocet in Spanish
  12. ^ "Google Translate" 
  13. ^ Scheina, Robert L 1 July 2003 "Latin America's Wars Volume II: The Age of the Professional Soldier, 1900-2001" Potomac Books Incorporated – via Google Books 
  14. ^ a b ARA202 16 August 2008 "Video Inédito: Disparo del ITB" – via YouTube 
  15. ^ Loss of HMS Sheffield - Board of Inquiry from the MOD page six
  16. ^ The Glamorgan was a 5,400tn destroyer of steel and compartment construction It was designed with experience and lessons from WW2, including Japanese suicide attacks, which is probably what saved it from destruction
  17. ^ John, Nott 2002, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, archived from the original on 22 November 2010, A remarkable world-wide operation then ensured to prevent further Exocets being bought by Argentina I authorised our agents to pose as bona fide purchasers of equipment on the international market, ensuring that we outbid the Argentineans Other agents identified Exocet missiles in various markets and covertly rendered them inoperable, based on information from the French John Nott, defence minister during the Falklands war 
  18. ^ Freedman, Lawrence 1 January 2005 "The Official History of the Falklands Campaign: War and diplomacy" Routledge – via Google Books 
  19. ^ "Página/12 :: El país :: A las Malvinas en subte" 
  20. ^ "Defence ministry 'Exocets' yacht radar" New Scientist: 803 1983-03-24 ISSN 0262-4079 Retrieved 2015-04-15 
  21. ^ a b "Trade Registers" 
  22. ^ Frigates : Fatahillah Class
  23. ^ "Archived copy" PDF Archived from the original PDF on 1 October 2006 Retrieved 2011-05-02 
  24. ^ 'Malaysian Navy's 1st Scorpene sub test fires Exocet missile' at brahmandcom/news
  25. ^ Engelbrecht, Leon "Fact file: Valour-class frigates - defenceWeb" 
  26. ^ The Military Balance 2013 International Institute for Strategic Studies 2013 p 531 ISBN 978-1857436808 
  27. ^ "Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri" in Turkish wwwdzkktsktr Retrieved 2009-11-29 
  28. ^ "World Navies Today: Turkey" wwwhazegrayorg Retrieved 2009-11-29 
  29. ^ Nurw 3 November 2013 "DEFENSE STUDIES: France Sells Exocet Block 3 for Two Vietnamese SIGMA 9814" 

External linksedit

  • Manufacturer's Website in English in French
  • Gallery of photographs of various variants of the Exocet missile in French
  • Argentine Account of the role of the Exocet in the Falklands War in English
  • Photos of Exocet damage to USS Stark in English
  • Testing of Exocet MM-40 Block 3 in English

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