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AGM-84 Harpoon launched from USS Leahy (CG-16)

RGM-84 Harpoon firing from USS Leahy.

Martel TV-Guided Missile - Elvington - BB

Martel guided anti-ship missile.

Exocet AM39 P1220892-detoured

The MBDA Exocet Anti-ship missile.

Anti-ship missiles are guided missiles that are designed for use against ships and large boats. Most anti-ship missiles are of the sea skimming variety, and many use a combination of inertial guidance and radar homing. A good number of other anti-ship missiles use infrared homing to follow the heat that is emitted by a ship; it is also possible for anti-ship missiles to be guided by radio command all the way.

The first anti-ship missiles, which were developed and built by Nazi Germany, used radio command guidance, these saw some success in the Mediterranean Theater in 1943 - 44, sinking or heavily damaging at least 31 ships with the Henschel Hs 293 and more than seven with the Fritz X, such as the Italian battleship Roma or the cruiser USS Savannah. A variant of the HS 293 had a TV transmitter on board. The bomber carrying it could then fly outside the range of naval AA guns and use TV guidance to lead the missile to its target by radio control.

Many anti-ship missiles can be launched from a variety of weapons systems including surface warships (they can then be referred to as ship-to-ship missiles), submarines, bombers, fighter planes, patrol planes, helicopters, shore batteries, land vehicles, and conceivably, even by infantrymen firing shoulder-launched missiles.

A typical acronym for the phrase "anti-ship missile" is ASM, but AShM can also be used to avoid confusion with air-to-surface missiles, anti-submarine missiles, and anti-satellite missiles.


Anti-ship missiles were among the first instances of short-range guided missiles during World War II in 1943 - 44. The German Luftwaffe used the Hs 293, the Fritz X, and others, all launched from its bombers, to deadly effect against some Allied ships in the Mediterranean Sea, seriously damaging ships such as the United States Navy light cruiser USS Savannah (CL-42) off Salerno, Italy. These all used radio command-guidance from the bombardiers of the warplanes that launched them. Some of these hit and either sank or damaged a number of ships, including warships offshore of amphibious landings on western Italy. These radio-controlled missiles were used successfully until the Allied navies developed missile countermeasures - principally radio jamming. The Allies also developed some of their own similar radio-guided AShMs, such as the Tiny Tim and the SWOD-9 Bat, but these saw little to no use in combat.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union turned to a sea-denial strategy concentrating on submarines, naval mines and the AShM. One of the first products of the decision was the SS-N-2 Styx missile. Further products were to follow, and they were soon loaded on to the Soviet Air Force's Tu-95 Bear and Tu-22 Blinder bombers, in the case of the air-launched KS-1 Komet.

In 1967, the Israeli Navy's destroyer Eilat was the first ship to be sunk by a ship-launched missile - a number of Styx missiles launched by Egyptian Komar-class missile boats off the Sinai Peninsula.

In the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 the Indian Navy conducted two raids using OSA 1 - class missile boats employing the Styx on the Pakistani Naval base at Karachi. These raids resulted in the destruction or crippling of approximately two thirds of the Pakistani Navy. Major losses included two destroyers, a fleet oiler, an ammunition ship, approximately a dozen merchant ships and numerous smaller craft. Major shore based facilities, including fuel storage tanks and naval installations were also destroyed. The Osas returned to base without loss.

The Battle of Latakia in 1973 (during the Yom Kippur / Ramadan War) was the scene of the world's first combat between anti-ship missile-equipped missile boats. In this battle, the Israeli Navy destroyed Syrian warships without suffering any damage, using electronic countermeasures for defense. After defeating the Syrian navy the Israeli missile boats also sank a number of Egyptian warships, again without suffering any damage in return, thus achieving total naval supremacy for the rest of the war.

Anti-ship missiles were used in the 1982 Falklands War. The British warship HMS Sheffield, a 4,820 ton Type 42 Destroyer, was struck by a single air-launched Exocet AShM, she later sank as a result of the damage that she sustained. The container ship Atlantic Conveyor was also sunk by an Exocet. HMS Glamorgan was damaged when she was struck by an MM38 missile launched from an improvised trailer-based launcher taken from the Argentine Navy destroyer ARA Comodoro Seguí by Navy technicians,[1] but she was able to take evasive action that restricted the damage.

In 1987, a US Navy guided-missile frigate, the USS Stark, was hit by an Exocet anti-ship missile fired by an Iraqi Mirage F-1 fighter plane. Stark was damaged, but she was able steam to a friendly port for temporary repairs.

In October 1987, the Sungari, an American-owned tanker steaming under the Liberian flag and a Kuwaiti tanker steaming under the American flag, the Sea Isle City, were hit by Iranian HY-2 missiles.

In 1988 ASMs were fired by both American and Iranian forces in Operation Praying Mantis in the Persian Gulf. During this naval battle, several Iranian warships were hit by American ASMs (and by the US Navy's Standard missiles - SAMs which were doing double-duty in the anti-ship role). The US Navy hit the Iranian Navy light frigate IS Sahand with three Harpoon missiles, four AGM-123 Skipper rocket-propelled bombs, a Walleye laser-guided bomb, and several 1,000 lb "iron bombs". Despite the large number of munitions and successful hits, the 1,540 ton IS Sahand did not sink until fire reached her ammunition magazine, causing it to detonate, blowing the frigate to bits.[2] In the same engagement, American warships fired three Standard missiles at an Iranian Navy corvette. This corvette had such a low profile above the water that a Harpoon missile that arrived several minutes later could not lock on to it with its targeting radars.

In 2006, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters fired an AShM at the Israeli corvette INS Hanit, inflicting battle damage, but this warship managed to return to Israel in one piece and under its own power. A second missile in this same salvo struck and sank an Egyptian merchant ship.


Name Year Weight Warhead Range Speed Propulsion launched by Guidance Country Comments
Fritz X19431362 kg320 kg5 km1235 km/hnoneAirmanual (radio link)DEused in combat
Henschel Hs 29319431045 kg295 kg5.0 km828 km/hLiquid-propellant, then glidingAir manual (radio link)DE used in combat
Kh-5519841700 kg410 kg conventional/200 kt nuclear3000 km828 km/hturbofanAirInertial by Radar, TERCOM, InfraredUSSR/Russia
Blohm & Voss BV 2461943730 kg435 kg210 km450 km/h (280 mph)noneAirmanual (radio link)DE
Ohka19432140 kg1200 kg36 km630 km/hSolid-propellantAir mannedJPused in combat
Bat19421000 kg727 kg37 km260–390 km/hNoneAir Active RadarUSAused in combat
Harpoon1977691 kg221 kg280 km864 km/hturbojet engineAir, surface, subradar (B3: midcourse update)USAused in combat
AS.34 Kormoran1991630 kg220 kg35 km1101 km/hrocketAirInertial, active radarDE
Penguin1972385 kg130 kg55+ km1468 km/hSolid propellantAir, surface, subInertial, laser, IRNOR
AGM-65F Maverick1972300 kg140 kg30 km)1,150 km/hSolid propellantAir, Laser, IRUSAused in combat
Naval Strike Missile2009410 kg125 kg185 kmhigh subsonicturbojet and solid fuel boosterAir, surfaceInertial, GPS, terrain-reference, imaging IR, target databaseNOR
AGM-123 Skipper II1985582 kg450 kg25 km 1,100 km/hsolid-fueledAir laser-guidedUSA
SS.12/AS.12196076 kg28 kg7 km370 km/hsolid-fueledAir, surface wire MCLOSFR
BGM-109B Tomahawk19831200 kg450 kg450 km880 km/hturbofanAir, surface, subGPS, TERCOM, DSMACUSAused in combat
RB 041955600 kg300 kg32 kmsubsonicsolid propellantAiractive radarSWE
RB 081966??70 kmsubsonicturbojetsurfaceradio link active radarSWE
RBS-151985800 kg200 kg200 km1101 km/hturbojetAir, surface inertial, GPS, radarSWE
Exocet1979670 kg165 kg180 km1134 km/hsolid propellantAir, surface, subInertial, active radarFRused in combat
Gabriel1962522 kg150 kg60 km840 km/hsolid-fuel rocketAir, surfaceactive radarILused in combat
Otomat1977770 kg210 kg180+ km1116 km/hTurbojetSurface,Air(Perú)Inertial, GPS, active radarIT
Martel1984550 kg150 kg60 km1070 km/h solid propellant Airpassive radar, videoUK/FR
Sea Eagle1985580 kg230 kg110+ km1000 km/hTurbojetAir Inertia, active radarUK
Sea Skua1983145 kg28 kg25 km950 km/hsolid fuelAirsemi-active radarUKused in combat
LRASM2013[3] ? ? ? ? liquid fuel Surface ? USA
KSShch (SS-N-1 SCRUBBER)19582300 kgnuclear 40 km1150 km/h)liquid-fuel rocketSurfaceinertialUSSR
P-15 Termit (SS-N-2 STYX)19583100 kg454 kg80 km1100 km/hLiquid fuel rocketSurfaceactive radar, IRUSSRused in combat
P-5 Pyatyorka (SS-N-3 SHADDOCK)19595000 kg1000 kg750 km1000 km/hturbojetSurfaceInertial, mid course correction, active radarUSSR
Kh-22 (AS-4 Kitchen)19625820 kg1000 kg conventional/nuclear400 km4000 km/hliquid-fuel rocketAirinertialUSSR
P-70 Ametist (SS-N-7 STARBRIGHT)19683500 kg500 kg 65 km 1050 km/hsolid rocketsubinertial, terminal homingUSSR
Moskit (SS-N-22 SUNBURN)19704500 kg320 kg120 km3600 km/hramjetSurface, Airactive radar, IRUSSR
P-120 Malakhit (SS-N-9 SIREN)19722953 kg500 kg110 km1101Turbojet, solid fuelSurfaceInertial, mid course correction, active radarUSSRused in combat
P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12 SANDBOX) 19754500 kg1000 kg550 km3060 km/hliquid fuel rocketsurface/submergedSemi-active, terminal active radarUSSR
P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26)19833000 kg250 kg300 km3600 km/hramjetSurface, Airactive-passive, radarUSSR
3M-54 Klub (SS-N-27 SIZZLER)19931300–2300 kg400 kg300 km735–3675 km/h TurbojetSurface, SubInertial + Active RadarUSSR
Kh-35 (AS-20 KAYAK)1983520 kg145 kg130 km970 km/hturbofanSurface, AirInertial, active radarUSSR
Kh-15 (AS-16 Kickback)19881200 kg150 kg conventional/nuclear 300 km6200 km/hsolid-fuel rocketAirinertial or active radarUSSR
Hae Sung-I (SSM-700K)2005718 kg300 kg150 km1013 km/hTurbojet Ship, SurfaceInertial, active radarS.Korea
SOM (missile)2006600 kg230 kg185+ km1153 km/hTurbojetAirINS / GPS, Terrain Referenced Navigation, Automatic Target Recognition, Imaging Infrared SeekerTurkey
BrahMos20062500 kg (air), 3000 kg (ground)300 kg290 km3675 km/hramjetShip,Surface, Air,SubInertial, active radarIndia/Russia

Threat posedEdit

Antiship missiles are a large threat to surface ships, which have large radar, radio, and thermal signatures that are difficult to suppress. Once acquired, a ship cannot outrun or outturn a missile, the warhead of which can inflict significant damage. To counter the threat posed, the modern surface combatant has to either avoid being detected, destroy the missile launch platform before it fires its missiles, or decoy and/or destroy all of the incoming missiles.

Modern navies have spent much time and effort developing counters to the threat of antiship missiles since World War II. Antiship missiles have been the driving force behind many aspects of modern ship design, especially in navies that operate aircraft carriers.

The first layer of antimissile defense by a modern, fully equipped aircraft carrier task force is always the long-range missile-carrying fighter planes of the aircraft carrier itself. Several fighters are kept on combat air patrol (CAP) 24 hours a day, seven days a week when at sea, and many more are put aloft when the situation warrants, such as during wartime or when a threat to the task force is detected.

These fighters patrol up to hundreds of miles away from the Aircraft Carrier Task Force and they are equipped with excellent airborne radar systems. When spotting an approaching aircraft on a threatening flight profile, it is the responsibility of the CAP to intercept it before any missile is launched. If this cannot be achieved in time, the missiles themselves can be targeted by the fighters's own weapons systems, usually their air-to-air missiles, but in extremis, by their rapid-fire cannon.

However, some AShM's might "leak" past the Carrier Task Force's fighter defenses. In addition, many modern warships operate independently of carrier-based air protection and they must provide their own defenses against missiles and aircraft. Under these circumstances, the ships itself must utilize multilayered defenses which have been built into them.

For example, some warships, such as the U.S. Navy's Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, and the Royal Navy's Type 45 guided missile destroyer, use a combination of powerful and agile radar systems, integrated computer fire-control systems, and agile surface-to-air missiles to simultaneously track, engage, and destroy several incoming antiship missiles and/or hostile warplanes at a time.

The top American defensive system, called the Aegis Combat System, is also used by the navies of Japan, Spain, Norway, and South Korea. Aegis is also being built into three new guided-missile destroyers for the Royal Australian Navy, either under construction or in the planning stages. The Aegis system has been designed to defend against mass attacks by hostile antiship missiles and/or warplanes.

Any missiles that can elude the interception by medium-ranges SAM missiles can then be either deceived with electronic countermeasures or decoys; shot down by short-range missiles such as the Sea Sparrow or the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM); engaged by the warship's main gun armament (if present); or, as a last resort, blown to bits by a close-in weapon system (CIWS), such as the American Phalanx CIWS or the Dutch Goalkeeper CIWS.

Current threats and vulnerabilitiesEdit

To counter these defense systems, countries such as Russia are developing or deploying very low-flying missiles (about five meters above sea level) that slowly cruise at a very low level to within a short range of their target and then, at the point when radar detection becomes inevitable, initiate a supersonic, high-agility sprint (potentially with anti-aircraft missile detection and evasion) to close the terminal distance. Missiles, such as the SS-N-27 Sizzler, that incorporate this sort of threat modality are regarded by U.S. Navy analysts as potentially being able to penetrate the U.S. Navy's defensive systems.[4]

Recent years have seen a growing amount of attention being paid to the possibility of ballistic missiles being re-purposed or designed for an anti-ship role. Speculation has focused on the development of such missiles for use by China's People's Liberation Army Navy. Such an anti-ship ballistic missile would approach its target extremely rapidly, making it very difficult to intercept.[5]


Countermeasures against anti-ship missiles include:

On February 25, 1991, during the first Gulf War, the Phalanx-equipped USS Jarrett (FFG-33) was a few miles from the USS Missouri (BB-63) and the destroyer HMS Gloucester (D96). The ships were attacked by an Iraqi Silkworm missile (often referred to as the Seersucker), at which Missouri fired its SRBOC chaff. The Phalanx system on Jarrett, operating in the automatic target-acquisition mode, fixed upon Missouri's chaff, releasing a burst of rounds. From this burst, four rounds hit Missouri which was two to three miles (about 5 km) from Jarrett at the time. There were no injuries.[6] A Sea Dart missile was then launched from HMS Gloucester, which destroyed the Iraqi missile, achieving the first successful engagement of a missile by a missile during combat at sea.

Modern stealth ships – or ships that at least employ some stealth technology – to reduce the risk of detection and to make them a harder target for the missile itself. These passive countermeasures include:

Examples of these include the Norwegian Skjold class patrol boat, the Swedish Visby class corvette, the German Sachsen class frigate, the US Navy's Arleigh Burke class destroyer, their Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force's close counterparts in AEGIS warships, the Chinese Type 054 frigate and the Type 052C destroyer, the Indian Shivalik-class frigate and Kolkata class destroyer, the French La Fayette class frigate and the newer FREMM multipurpose frigate.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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