Exocet AM-39 anti-ship missile (from MBDA) under a Dassault Rafale

The Exocet is a French-built anti-ship missile whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, and airplanes. Several hundred were fired in combat during the 1980s. The name comes from a French word for flying fish.

The Exocet is built by MBDA. Development began in 1967 as a ship-launched missile named MM 38. The air-launched Exocet was developed in 1974 and entered service with the French Navy five years later.

The missile is designed to hit large warships. It is guided inertially in mid-flight, and turns on active radar late in its flight to find and hit its target. Its solid propellant engine gives the Exocet a maximum range of 70 km. The submarine-launched version places the missile and a Naval 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 newest MM40 version (MM40 block 3) has an improved range of 180 km, through the use of a turbojet engine.

The chief competitor to the Exocet is the Swedish built RBS15, the U.S. built Harpoon and the Chinese Yingji series.

EXOCET Specifications
Type Anti-ship missile
Manufacturer MBDA
Weight AM 39 670kg, MM40 870kg, SM 39 655kg
Warhead 165kg impact with delay- and proximity-fused high-explosive shaped charge
Length AM 39/SM 39 4.69m, MM 40 5.8m
Diameter 0.35m
Performance Speed mach 0.93, range 50km, MM40 > 70km, guidance Fire and Forget inertial navigation during cruise phase active homing during terminal phase, variants - Exocet MM38 (surface-to- surface), Exocet AM39 (air-to-surface), Exocet SM39 (submarine-to-surface), Exocet MM40 Block 1 and Block 2 (surface-to-surface or coastal batteries), Exocet MM40 Block 3 (surface-to-surface and coastal attack)