Will France supply Exocet anti ship missiles to Ukraine?

Exocet block 3
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French media reported that there is a possibility that the French government will provide Exocet anti-ship missiles. It is the same missile Argentina used to sink a British warship during the Falklands war in 1982.

Ukraine continues to ask foreign partners for various types of long-range weapons. At the beginning of June, it was reported that France may supply Exocet anti-ship missiles to Ukraine to counter the threat from the Russian Navy. But until now, there is no official information on the supply of such anti-ship missiles; at the same time, the information looks questionable, for political and technical reasons.

This news was first revealed by the French media. French media reported that the French government may deliver Exocet missiles to Ukraine , for use as part of a shore-based anti-ship missile system.

Meanwhile, deliveries have yet to begin due to a lack of necessary permits. Other details, such as the mandatory modification of certain export features and the number of missiles, delivery date, etc., were not specified.

The Exocet anti-ship missile is an anti-ship weapon of historical significance in France, which is equipped by many countries. Exocet is one of the oldest anti-ship missiles, currently in service with different countries including India. Development of the Exocet missile began in 1967 by French Nord aviation.

A few years later, the Exocet project was handed over to France Aerospace, which completed the design and put the missile into service. After 2000, the project was then transferred to the French branch of the European Missile Corporation (MBDA).

The first Exocet missile was produced in 1975 and entered service with the modified MM38, designed for surface ships. Interestingly, then the two countries, were able to transfer Exocet launched from surface ships, to ground launchers.

Over the next few decades, several new versions of the Exocet missiles were created for different purposes. For the naval aviation, AM38 and AM39 missiles were created, but only AM39 versions were produced. As for submarines, there is only one version, the SM39.

The last in the Exocet family is the MM40 for surface ships, and has undergone a number of upgrades; in 2010-2012, started production of the latest version, called Exocet Block 3. The first customer for all versions of the Exocet missile was the French Armed forces.

After its launch, the Exocet missile was exported to more than 30 foreign customers. Of these, almost a third of the countries have purchased the latest MM30 Block 3 anti-ship missile system, in recent times.

Unlike many modern anti-ship missiles, the Exocet missile has been used many times in conflicts with good combat results. First, during the Falklands War of 1982, Argentina used the French Exocet missile.

The Argentine military’s top attack aircraft, armed with Exocet missiles, sank the destroyer HMS Sheffield and a British container ship. In addition, the Argentine military created a simple shore-based anti-ship launch system for the Exocet missile, which severely damaged the British destroyer HMS Glamorgan.

Iraq also actively used Exocet missiles in the war with Iran. According to known data, in the 1980s, Iraq had about 250 Exocet AM39 missiles, and had sunk many Iranian warships.

Another incident of using Iraq’s most famous Exocet anti-ship missile. In May 1987, an Iraqi Mirage F1 fighter jet hit the US frigate Stark with two Exocet missiles. But the ship did not sink and was repaired later.

Tactical features of the Exocet missile

The Exocet missile is a subsonic anti-ship missile designed to attack medium-speed surface ships. Due to its compact design, it can be used on different launch vehicles, such as air-launched, submarine-launched, etc. At the same time, the versions also differ in tactical specifications.

All Exocet missile variants have a cylindrical body, 340 mm in diameter, 4.7 m long (excluding the launcher). The mass of early missile versions ranged from 650-670 kg; new models alone increase to 780kg. In particular, the semi-armor-piercing warhead without contact or delayed detonation weighs 165 kg.

Exocet missiles are equipped with solid fuel engines, with different ranges. The first version of the MM38, launched from a surface ship, has a range of only 40 km, while the air-launched version AM39 has a range of 70 km, and the latest version of the MM40 Block 3, has a range of 180 km thanks to the turbojet engine. 

All Exocet missiles are equipped with auto guidance with first-stage inertial guidance system and active last-stage radar.

The big question now is whether France will actually deliver Exocet missiles to Ukraine.

Plans are still only on paper, as Ukraine has lost its surface and submarine fleet, and Ukraine’s tactical aviation remains, unable to carry French/NATO missiles.

The tactical characteristics of the Exocet missile itself do not meet the requirements of modern maritime warfare, when the maximum range of this missile series is only 180 km; This limits their ability to attack.

In addition, due to its subsonic speed, the Exocet missile is easy to intercept; 165kg armor-piercing warheads are less likely to pose a danger to large warships.

Finally, it must be remembered that foreign weapons entering Ukraine will be destroyed immediately by the Russian military at the stage of transportation to the battlefield or in the firing position.

Unless France provides a land-based version of the Exocet missile, supplying the Exocet will not be of any use to Ukraine, since the Ukrainian air force and navy are essentially disbanded.

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