Fact file: MBDA Exocet naval surface-to-surface missile


Long-range (sic) subsonic anti-ship missile system.
Country of origin:               
First flight:                            
c1967, entered service with the French Navy, 1975.
Delivered to the SAN:        
From 2005.
Reportedly 17, including several test rounds fired; the first being in April 2005, sinking the ex-SAS Shaka (former PW Botha).                            
R20 million for 17.   
System components:         
Missiles, launchers, support equipment.
The US Federation of American Scientists says the missile was designed to attack large warships. An upgraded version came into service in the 1990s and introduced an improved digital active radar seeker and upgraded inertial navigation and control electronics. The Exocet has four clipped delta wings at mid-body and four raked clipped-tip moving delta control fins at the rear.      
Integrates into:                    
Acquisition modes:            
Designated by ship`s combat management system.
The missile is launched using the parent ship`s fire control system and is sent at low level and at high speed in the direction of the target. Guidance in the mid-course phase is inertial, followed by an active radar terminal phase, using an onboard EMD Adac X-band monopulse active radar seeker. There is also a radar altimeter to control the sea-skimming trajectory, at around 10m until the terminal phase when, in calm sea conditions, the missile can descend to about 2.5m.
·         Range:          
·         Trajectory:   
·         Dimensions:
o        Length:            
o        Diameter:
o        Wingspan:    
·         Weight:                         
·         Motor:
·         Airspeed:      
·         Warhead:     
·         Fuze:             
·         Penetration:                 
·         In excess of 180km (Block III), earlier variants about 50km.          
·         Sea skimming.
·         4.7m.  
·         0.35m.
·         1.1m.
·         0.670mt.
·         Booster, sustained rocket motor.
·         Mach 0.93.
·         0.165mt Serat hexolite high explosive shaped charge fragmentation warhead.
·         Proximity and delay.
·         Penetrates armour up to impact angles of 70deg.
·         Length:         
·         Weight:
·         –
·         –
The Exocet is a proven, “off-the-shelf” design. The SAS Amatola (F145) destroyed the decommissioned hulk of the former strike craft SAS Shaka on April 22, 2005. Calling the event “historic”, the Navy said the ship “was the smallest target ever engaged by an Exocet missile”.
The Exocet was acquired as part of “Project Sitron”, which has already seen South Africa take delivery of four German-built Meko A200SAN frigates. Air-launched, land-based and submarine versions are also in service, but not in South Africa. 
The Block III has a littoral and land attack capability in addition to its blue water anti-ship capability. It was also designed to outwit anti-missile defences using high-g evasive manoeuvres and electronic counter-counter measures. It also features a reduced frontal radar cross section and infra-red signature. A new navigation package, “allowing optimised three dimensional approach trajectories and terminal attacks from different azimuths, at very low sea skimming altitude and with synchronised arrival,” has also enhanced the missile`s flexibility.[1]The terminal guidance “relies on a sophisticated J-band active seeker to discriminate and select targets at sea and on the GPS accuracy for land targets.”   
Some commentators have criticised the choice of the Exocet Block II because of its lack of land attack ability at a time of heightened interest in littoral warfare and more robust peace enforcement. Others have hammered the system for its age (developed in 1967), its low relative speed, range and small warhead, compared to some more modern systems such as the Indo-Russian BrahMos, which has a cited range of 280km at Mach 2.8, a launch weight of 2.5mt and a 0.3mt warhead.[2]       

[1] MBDA sales brochure, Exocet MM40 Block III, June 2004.
[2] BrahMos sales brochure, undated. See more at www.brahmos.com