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The Exocet missile is a French-built anti-ship missile. It comes in air-launched, surface-launched, or submarine-launched versions. The air-launched variant (the AM.39) has a 65 km range and a 165 kg high explosive warhead. It entered French service in 1977. Current users include France, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, Singapore, Libya, and Peru.[1]

Operational History

The combat debut for the Exocet missile was in the Falklands War. At the outbreak of hostilities, the Argentine navy had five air-launched Exocets, all of which were fired at British ships. Two missiles hit their targets, the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the supply ship Atlantic Conveyer, sinking both ships. The Exocet threat forced the British task force to operate further away from the Falkland Islands than it had before, reducing its combat efficiency.[2]

The Exocet also saw use by Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, and many tankers were sunk and damaged by the missile.[3] In 1987, two Exocets, mistakenly launched from an Iraqi Mirage, hit the American frigate USS Stark on duty in the Persian Gulf, killing 37 sailors, but not sinking the ship.[4]


  1. Exocet at GlobalSecurity.org
  2. Air War in the Falklands 1982, by Christopher Chant, Osprey Combat Aircraft series, 2001
  3. Tanker War 1980-1988
  4. Historical Atlas of the U.S. Navy, by Craig L. Symonds, 1995