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 has been manufactured in a number of versions, including:
The newest MM40 version (MM40 block 3) has an improved range of 180 km, through the use of a turbojet engine.
In 1982, during the Falklands War, Exocets became famous worldwide when Argentine Navy Super Etendard warplanes used them to destroy Royal Navy's HMS Sheffield on 4 May and sink the support ship Atlantic Conveyor on 25 May. As well, an Argentine-converted land-based truck fired an MM38 Exocet (previously dismounted from the Argentine destroyer ARA Segui) that damaged the HMS Glamorgan on June 12.
The Exocet that struck Sheffield impacted on Deck 2, 8 feet (2.4 m) above the waterline, near to the forward engine room, cracking the hull open roughly 4 feet (1.2 m) by 10 feet (3 m). There remains uncertainty as to whether or not the warhead exploded. Accounts suggest that the initial impact of the missile immediately destroyed the ship's onboard electricity generating systems and fractured the water main, preventing the anti-fire mechanisms from operating effectively, and thereby dooming the ship to be consumed by the raging fire. Although the loss of Sheffield was a major shock to the British, the missile used earned itself a curious kind of respect, and the word “Exocet” passed into British colloquial usage to denote, “a devastating attack.”
On May 17, 1987, the pilot of an Iraqi Mirage F-1 allegedly mistook the U.S. Navy Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate USS Stark for an Iranian tanker and fired two Exocets at the warship.
The first penetrated the port-side hull, the second entered at almost the same point, and left a 3-by-4-metre gash then exploded in crew quarters. Thirty-seven sailors were killed and twenty-one were injured.
AM39 under a Rafale M :
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