Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

Exocet Antiship Missile: The Flying Fish That Flummoxes Radar

By Jon Guttman 
Originally published by Military History magazine. Published Online: September 08, 2011 
Print Friendly
0 comments FONT +  FONT -

The Exocet (French for "flying fish") wreaked havoc on British ships during the 1982 Falklands War. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)
The Exocet (French for "flying fish") wreaked havoc on British ships during the 1982 Falklands War. (Illustration by Gregory Proch)

In 1967 Nord Aviation, a French precursor of the European missile manufacturer MBDA, began development of a ship-launched guided missile. Perfected in 1974, the missile entered French naval service in 1979 as the Exocet (French for "flying fish"). Using a solid-propellant rocket with a range of 38 nautical miles, the weapon saw deployment as the surface-launched MM38, the air-launched AM38 and AM39, and the submarine-launched SM39. The newer surface-launched MM40 version has a turbojet engine that extends its range to 97 nautical miles. Fitted with inertial and active radar, the Exocet skims just a few yards above the ocean's surface, making it difficult to detect on radar.

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to Military History magazine

On May 4, 1982, during the Falklands War, an Exocet launched from an Argentine navy Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard fighter struck the British destroyer HMS Sheffield, failing to explode but causing massive fires that ultimately sank the warship. Three weeks later two Super Étendard–launched Exocets hit the British container ship Atlantic Conveyor, which also sank. The Argentines missed the light aircraft carrier HMS Invincible on May 30, but a land-launched Exocet damaged the destroyer HMS Glamorgan on June 12, shortly before the British retook the Falkland Islands.

During its eight-year (1980–88) clash with Iran, Iraq launched 200 Exocets at enemy-flagged tankers and other vessels, with varying success. But in the Persian Gulf on May 17, 1987, an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1, for reasons unexplained—Iraq was not at war with the United States—launched two Exocets that hit the frigate USS Stark, whose surviving crew managed to save the badly damaged warship.

Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy