Exocet

The Exocet missile series of French short-range anti-ship cruise missile. There are six Exocet variants, which differ by their launch platforms and levels of modernization. These are the MM38, MM40, MM40 Block 2, and MM40 Block 3 sea- and ground-launched models, the AM39 air-launched model, and the SM39 sub-launched variant.

Exocet at a Glance

Originated From: France
Possessed By: Numerous (see table below)
Class: Anti-ship Cruise Missile
Basing: Sea/Air/Ground/Submarine
Length: 4.69- 5.95 m
Diameter: 350 mm
Launch Weight: 655-870 kg
Payload: Single warhead
Warhead: 165 kg HE fragmentation or semi-armor piercing
Propulsion: Solid fueled (MM40 Block 3 uses a Microturbo TRI 40 turbojet)
Range: 40-180 km
Status: Operational
In Service: 1975

 Variant MM38 SM39 AM39 MM40 MM40 Block 2 MM40 Block 3
Basing Ship-, Ground-launched Sub-launched Air-launched Ship-, Ground-launched Ship-, Ground-launched Ship-, Ground-launched
Range 40 km 50 km 70 km 70 km 70 km 180 km
Warhead 165 kg HE frag. 165 kg HE frag. 165 kg HE frag. 165 kg HE frag. 165 kg HE frag. 160 kg HE frag.
Status Discontinued 2002 Operational Operational Operational Operational Operational
Users Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Iraq, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia Chile, France, India, Malaysia, Pakistan,   South Africa Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Peru (Block 1), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore,    South Africa, UAE Argentina, Bahrain, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay Brazil, Greece,    Indonesia, Malaysia,  Morocco,   South Africa Greece, Indonesia,   Morocco, UAE, Vietnam

Exocet Development

exocetThe original Exocet missile, the sea-launched MM38, was developed in 1967 and entered into service in 1975. Work on the AM39, the air-launched variant, began in 1974 and entered service in 1979. Development of an improved version of the MM38, named the MM40, began in 1976. Further upgrades were made, resulting in the development and employment of the AM39/MM40 Block 2 in 1992. The MM40 Block 3 missile began development 2004 and was first tested via ship-launch in 2010. 1 All missiles are in service and all but the MM 38 remain in production.

The SM39 is the submarine-launched variant of the AM 39 which began development in 1979 and was ready for deployment in 1984. 2 Coastal defense modifications made to the MM38 and MM40 have resulted in the BC38 and BC40, which can be fitted to helicopters, destroyers, and frigates.

The AM39 is the airborne variant of the Exocet missile family and can be launched from fighter aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, and helicopters. 3

Exocet MM38

The original Exocet missile, the ship-launched MM38, was developed in 1967 and entered into service in 1975. The MM38 is a solid-propellant missile with a range of 40 km. It is 5.21 m long, with a body diameter of 0.35, and a launch weight of 735 kg with a 165 kg payload. The MM38 has an inertial navigation system, an active radar seeker, and is equipped with a high explosive fragmentation warhead. Production on the MM38 was discontinued in 2002. 4

Exocet MM40

The MM40 missile is an upgraded version of the MM38 that began development in 1976. It is 5. 8 m long, allowing for the missile to carry the additional propellant needed to achieve an increased range of 70 km. The MM40 has a body diameter of 350 mm and a launch weight of 870 kg. MM40 Block 2 missiles are equipped with upgraded inertial navigation and control systems that allow them to fly 2-3 m altitude, differentiate between several targets, and are capable of preforming preprogrammed maneuvers. 5 The MM40 has an inertial navigation system, an active radar seeker, and is equipped with a high explosive fragmentation warhead. The MM40 remains in service as well as continued production.

Exocet SM39

The SM39 is the sub-launched variant of the Exocet missile family and has a range of 50 km. It has a length of 4.69 m and a diameter of 350 mm. Alone, the missile itself weighs 655 kg, but the weight increases to 1,345 kg when combined with the VSM (Vehicule Sous-Marin) container launch module. Although the VSM is necessary for launch, the missile separates from the container at a low altitude after breaking surface. The missile maintains a sea-skimming level while using an internal navigation system and autonomous terminal guidance in pursuit of the target. 6

Exocet AM39

Production on the AM39, the air-launched variant in the Exocet family, began in 1974 and the missile entered service in 1979. Weighing 670 kg with a length of 4.69 m and a diameter of 350 mm, the AM39 can have a range between 50-70 km depending on the speed and altitude of the carrying aircraft. Updates to the AM39 include an updated laser gyro inertial system (INS), improved digital computing in the active radar seeker, updates to the sea-skimming altitude control, guidance and control systems, and evasive capabilities such as the ability to maneuver in the terminal phase 7The AM39 is operational as well as under continued production.

Exocet MM40 Block 3

The MM40 Block 3 missile, complete with a Microturbo TRI 40 turbojet engine, began development 2004 and was first tested from a ship in 2010. 8 Improvements to the MM40 Block 3 include internal navigation and GPS upgrades. These updates, combined with a frequency modulated continuous wave radar altimeter, allows for control of the missile’s altitude over various types of terrain. This missile is armed with a 160 kg high explosive/semi-armour piercing warhead and an active radar terminal seeker 9 Additional upgrades include increased evasive capabilities such as the ability to make a 180 degree turn post-launch, allowing the MM40 to evade defense missile systems. These upgraded missiles will be both ship- and ground-launched and will be deployed first onto Forbin (Horizon)-class destroyers and then to La Fayette-class frigates. 10

Exocet Service History

Of the 3,300 Exocet missiles that have been produced, including 1,260 MM38, 800 MM40, 1,100 AM39, and 140 SM39, with 400 MM40 Block 3 missiles on order to be produced, over 700 have been fired in combat. 11

Due to France’s international sales, the Exocet is one of most proliferated missiles ever. In addition to France, 38 countries possess Exocets variants. These include Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

Argentina employed several Exocet missiles, including the MM38 and AM39, to attack British naval forces in the Falklands War. In May, 1982, Exocets struck the British merchant ship the Atlantic Conveyor and sank the HMS Sheffield, causing 32 British casualties. 12 In June, Argentina fired another missile at the HMS Glamorgan, damaging the ship.

In 1987, during the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi fighter jets launched two AM39 missiles at the American frigate the USS Stark, killing 28 US naval personnel 13

  1. MBDA Missile Systems, “Press Release: The Qatari Emiri Navy selects the latest generation missile from the Exocet family”, 22 April 2010, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
  2. MBDA Missile Systems, “Exocet SM 39”, 2016, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
  3. MBDA Missile Systems, “Exocet Am 39”, 2016, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-am-39/.
  4. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 135.
  5. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 136.
  6. MBDA Missile Systems, “Exocet SM 39”, 2016, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
  7. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 135.
  8. MBDA Missile Systems, “Press Release: The Qatari Emiri Navy selects the latest generation missile from the Exocet family”, 22 April 2010, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
  9. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 136.
  10. Ibid.
  11. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 136.
  12. Mike Thomson, “How France Helped Both Sides in the Falklands War”, March 6 2012, BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17256975.
  13. Alex Brummer and David Hirst, “US Navy Ordered to Hit Back after Exocet Kills 28”, 19 May 1987, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/1987/may/19/iraq.davidhirst.
    1. MBDA Missile Systems, “Press Release: The Qatari Emiri Navy selects the latest generation missile from the Exocet family”, 22 April 2010, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
    2. MBDA Missile Systems, “Exocet SM 39”, 2016, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
    3. MBDA Missile Systems, “Exocet Am 39”, 2016, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-am-39/.
    4. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 135.
    5. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 136.
    6. MBDA Missile Systems, “Exocet SM 39”, 2016, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
    7. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 135.
    8. MBDA Missile Systems, “Press Release: The Qatari Emiri Navy selects the latest generation missile from the Exocet family”, 22 April 2010, http://www.mbda-systems.com/exocet-solution/exocet-sm-39/.
    9. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 136.
    10. Ibid.
    11. James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 136.
    12. Mike Thomson, “How France Helped Both Sides in the Falklands War”, March 6 2012, BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17256975.
    13. Alex Brummer and David Hirst, “US Navy Ordered to Hit Back after Exocet Kills 28”, 19 May 1987, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/1987/may/19/iraq.davidhirst.