From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Missile

The Exocet is a French-built anti-ship missile made in various versions capable of being launched from surface ships and boats, submarines, and airplanes. It has been extensively used in combat from the 1980s onwards. The name comes from a French word for flying fish.



Missing image
impact of an Exocet missile

The Exocet missile is built by European company MBDA's division Aérospatiale (who were also the French arm of the Anglo-French team that built the Concorde.) It is one of the most successful Surface to Surface / Air to Surface missiles currently in service. Development began in 1967, as a ship launched missile named MM 38. The air launched Exocet was developed in 1974 and entering service with the French Navy in 1979.

The missile was designed to engage large warships. Guidance in the mid-flight phase is inertial, followed by active radar seeking to acquire its target. The solid propellant engine gives the Exocet a maximum range of 65 km. The submarine-launched version places the missile and a Narval booster motor within a launch capsule.

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

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

The newer MM40 version has an improved range, through the use of a turboreactor.

The chief competitor to the Exocet is the USA-built AGM-84 Harpoon.


In 1982, during the Falklands War, air-launched Exocets were used with devastating effect by the Argentinian forces against the British navy, accounting for the sinking of the destroyer HMS Sheffield (4th May) and the support ship Atlantic Conveyor (25th May), as well as damaging the HMS Glamorgan (the missile that hit the Glamorgan was a surface-launched Exocet).

The Exocet that struck the Sheffield failed to explode but the impact of the missile travelling at 315 m/s and laden with unburnt rocket fuel was enough to set the ship ablaze. Accounts suggest that the initial impact of the missile immediately destroyed the ship's onboard electricity generating systems and prevented the anti-fire mechanisms from operating effectively, dooming the ship to be consumed by the raging fire. Although the loss of the Sheffield was a blow to British self-esteem, the missile used earned itself a curious kind of respect, and the word "Exocet" passed into British colloquial usage to denote, "a devastating attack". It is still occasionally heard, and as of 2004, remains widely understood.

In the years after the Falklands War it was revealed that the British government and intelligence agencies were extremely concerned by the perceived inadequacy of the British navy's anti-missile defences against the Exocet and the missile's potential to tip the naval war decidedly in favour of the Argentine forces. In London, a nightmare scenario was being envisaged where one or both of the UK forces two aircraft carriers (HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes) was destroyed or incapacitated by an Exocet attack. Under such circumstances, military analysts considered that the British would have had serious difficulty in further prosecuting an attempt to recapture the Falklands from the Argentine forces. To counter the mortal threat posed by the Exocet, a major intelligence operation was initiated to prevent the Argentine air force acquiring more of the missiles and British intelligence (believed to have been assisted by American intelligence) launched a global operation to disrupt Argentine attempts to procure new Exocets for the campaign. The operation included the seeding of intelligence agents whose task was to make contact with the Argentine military and falsely purport to be able to provide them with Exocets.

Missing image
USS Stark hit by two Exocet

Iraq successfully used the air-launched version against Iranian shipping during the Iran-Iraq War. On March 17, 1987, an Iraqi Mirage F-1 accidentally fired two exocets against the US Navy Guided missile frigate USS Stark (FFG-31) (an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate), mistaking the vessel for an Iranian tanker; the Stark was heavily damaged but saved by the crew and sent back for repairs. Saddam Hussein is rumored to have beheaded the pilot who mistakenly fired the missiles at his then-ally.


The Exocet is currently in service with France, Germany, Greece, Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Argentina, Malaysia, South Africa, Brazil, Oman, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar and Peru. It also served with the Royal Navy until the last Exocet armed surface vessel was decommissioned in 2002.

The Lokata

Secrecy of the Exocet suffered a blow in the late 1970s when a civilian in Falmouth in Cornwall in England accidentally independently duplicated the Exocet's navigation system and, despite order from the Patents Office to keep it secret, sold it to the public as a small boat type navigation system called Lokata.

External Links

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Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

de:MBDA Exocet SM39

fr:Exocet (missile) ms:MBDA Exocet zh:飞鱼反舰导弹


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