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Anti-ship missiles are guided missiles designed for use against ships. Most anti-ship missiles are of the sea-skimming type and use a combination of inertial guidance and radar homing. These missiles can be launched from a variety of platforms including ships, aircraft (including helicopters), land vehicles and submarines.

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


Anti-ship missiles were among the first instances of short range guided missiles during the Second World War. The German Luftwaffe used Fritz X and others to some effect against Allied shipping and sank or damaged a number of large warships successfully before the Allies devised countermeasures (principally radio jamming). The Allies also developed similar weapons, such as Tiny Tim and the SWOD-9 Bat.

During the cold war, the USSRmarker turned to a sea-denial strategy concentrating on submarines, mines, and anti-ship missiles. One of the first products of the decision was the SS-N-2 Styx missile. Further products were to follow and soon found the in the aircraft launched KS-1 Komet carried by Tu-95 Bear and Tu-22 Badger bombers.

In 1967 the Israeli Navy destroyer Eilat was sunk by a Styx missile launched by Egyptian missile boats off the Sinai Peninsulamarker.

1973's Battle of Latakia was the site of the world's first combat between anti-ship missile-equipped missile boats. In it, the Israelimarker navy destroyed the Syrianmarker ships without suffering any damage, using electronic countermeasures.

Anti-ship missiles were used in the 1982 Falklands War. HMS Sheffield, a 4,820 ton Type 42 Destroyer was struck by a single air-launched Exocet missile and later sank as a result of damage sustained. The container ship Atlantic Conveyormarker was also sunk by an Exocet, while HMS Glamorgan was damaged. Glamorgan was struck by an MM38 missile launched from an improvised trailer-based launcher taken from the destroyer ARA Comodoro Seguí by Argentine Navy technicians., but was able to take avoiding manoeuvres that lessened the damage inflicted.

In 1987, a US Navy guided-missile frigate, the USS Stark, was hit by an Exocet ASM fired by an Iraqi Mirage F-1. The Stark was damaged but was able to make it to a friendly port for repair. The next year, ASMs were fired by both US and Iranian forces in Operation Praying Mantis in the Persian Gulfmarker. During this naval battle, several Iranianmarker warships were hit by US ASMs (and by Standard SAMs doing double-duty in this role). Also, in October 1987, Sungari, an American-owned tanker under the Liberian flag and a Kuwaiti tanker under the US flag, the Sea Isle Citymarker, were hit by Iranian HY-2 missiles.

During Operation Praying Mantis, the US Navy hit the Iranian light frigate IS Sahand with 3 Harpoon missiles, 4 AGM-123 Skipper rocket-propelled bombs, a Walleye laser-guided bomb, and several 1,000 lb bombs. Despite the large number of munitions and successful hits, the 1,540 ton IS Sahand did not sink until fire reached its munitions magazine, causing it to explode. [20778] However, in the same engagement, US warships fired 3 RIM-66 Standard missiles at an Iranian corvette - the corvette sunk low enough in the water that a Harpoon missile arriving several minutes later had nothing to lock on to.

In 2006, Hezbollah forces fired an ASM at the Israeli corvette INS Hanit, inflicting damage but the ship made it back to Israel. A second missile in this salvo sunk an Egyptian merchant ship, as well.


Name Year Warhead Range Speed (km/h) Propulsion launched by Guidance Built by Comments
Fritz X 1943 320 kg 5 km 1235 km/h none Air manual (radio link) DE used in combat
Henschel Hs 293 1943 295 kg 5.0 km 828 km/h Liquid-propellant, then gliding Air manual (radio link) DE used in combat
Blohm & Voss BV 246 1943 435 kg 210 km 450 km/h (280 mph) none Air manual (radio link) DE
Ohka 1943 1200 kg 36 km 630 km/h Solid-propellant Air human kamikaze JP used in combat
Bat 1942 273 kg 37 km 260–390 km/h None Air manual (radio link) USA used in combat
Boeing Harpoon 1977 221 kg 93–280 km 864 km/h turbojet engine Air, surface, sub radar (B3: midcourse update) USA used in combat
AS.34 Kormoran 1991 220 kg 35 km Mach 0.9 rocket Air Inertial, active radar DE
Penguin 1972 130 kg 55+ km high subsonic Solid propellant Air, surface, sub Inertial, laser, IR NOR
Naval Strike Missile 2009 125 kg 185 km high subsonic turbojet and solid fuel booster Air, surface Inertial, GPS, terrain-reference, imaging IR, target database NOR
AGM-123 Skipper II 1985 450 kg 25 km 1,100 km/h solid-fueled Air laser-guided USA
Aerospatiale SS.12/AS.12 1960 28 kg 7 km 370 km/h solid-fueled Air, surface wire MCLOS FR
BGM-109 Tomahawk 1983 450 kg 2500 km 880 km/h turbofan Air, surface, sub GPS, TERCOM, DSMAC USA
Rb 04 1955 300 kg 32 km subsonic solid propellant Air active radar SWE
RB 08 1966 70 km subsonic turbojet surface radio link active radar SWE
RBS-15 1985 200 kg 200 km subsonic turbojet Air, surface inertial, GPS, radar SWE
Exocet 1979 165 kg 180 km 1134 km/h solid propellant Air, surface, sub Inertial, active radar FR used in combat
Gabriel 1962 150 kg 60 km 840 km/h solid-fuel rocket Air, surface active radar IL used in comabt
Otomat 1977 210 kg 180+ km 1116 km/h Turbojet Surface Inertial, GPS, active radar IT
Martel 1984 150 kg 60 km max 1070 km/h solid propellant Air passive radar, video FR/UK
Sea Eagle 1985 230 kg 110 km + 1000 km/h Turbojet Air Inertia, active radar UK
Sea Skua 1983 28 kg 25 km 950 km/h solid fuel Air semi-active radar UK used in combat
RIM-66 Standard 1967 blast fragmentation 74 to 167 km 4140 km/h solid fuel Surface inertial, semi-active radar USA used in combat
RIM-67 Standard 1981 62 kg 120–185 km 4140 km/h solid fuel Surface inertial, semi-active radar USA
KSShch (SS-N-1 SCRUBBER) 1958 nuclear 40 km 1150 kmph (Mach 0.95) liquid-fuel rocket Surface inertial USSR
P-15 Termit (SS-N-2 STYX) 1958 454 kg 80 km 1100 km/h Liquid fuel rocket Surface active radar, IR USSR used in combat
P-5 Pyatyorka (SS-N-3 SHADDOCK) 1959 1000 kg 750 km 1000 km/h turbojet Surface Inertial, mid course correction, active radar USSR
KH-22 (AS-4 Kitchen) 1962 conventional/nuclear 1000 kg 400 km 4000 km/h liquid-fuel rocket Air inertial USSR
P-70 Ametist (SS-N-7 STARBRIGHT) 1968 500 kg 65 km 1050 km/h solid rocket sub inertial, terminal homing USSR
Moskit (SS-N-22 SUNBURN) 1970 320 kg 120 km 3600 km/h ramjet Surface, Air active radar, IR USSR
P-120 Malakhit (SS-N-9 SIREN) 1972 500 kg (1,100 lb) 110 km Mach 0.9 Turbojet, solid fuel Surface Inertial, mid course correction, active radar USSR used in combat
P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26) 1983 250 kg 300 km 3600 km/h ramjet Surface, Air active-passive, radar USSR
3M-54 Klub (SS-N-27 SIZZLER) 1993 400 kg 300 km Varies on variant Turbojet sub Inertial + Active Radar USSR
Kh-35 (AS-20 KAYAK) 1983 145 kg 130 km 970 km/h turbofan Surface, Air Inertial, active radar USSR
KH-15 (AS-16 Kickback) 1988 150 kg conventional/nuclear 300 km 6200 km/h solid-fuel rocket Air inertial or active radar USSR
BrahMos 2006 300 kg 290 km 3675 km/h ramjet Ship,Surface, Air,Sub Inertial, active radar India/Russia
Hae Sung-I (SSM-700K) 2005 300 kg 150 km 1013 km/h Turbojet Ship,Surface Inertial, active radar S.Korea

Threat posed

Anti-ship missiles are the bane of the modern naval surface combatant. Unlike the ground-combatant, who has the advantage of concealment, terrain, and, fundamentally, ground beneath his feet, the naval surface combatant is alone, aboard a warm boat, easily distinguishable from the cold water that surrounds her, said boat being packed to the gills with men, weaponry, and explosives, sailing on a flat, relatively featureless expanse of ocean, which offers concealment and shelter to none, and is (eventually) naturally deadly to human life. As this is the case, threats that would merely slow down the ground combatant—such as guided missiles—are a much greater threat to the naval combatant. Possessing a speed and an agility that naval platforms cannot forseeably match, as well as computerized "smart" guidance systems and a heavy payload of high-explosive, the modern anti-ship missile, once it has acquired its target, is an enemy that the target ship cannot usually run from, hide from, physically avoid, or absorb.

Therefore, to counter the threat posed, the modern surface combatant has to either avoid being acquired by a platform possessing anti-ship missiles in the first place, has to destroy the anti-ship missile carrying platform prior to it launching its anti-ship missiles, or has to have active defense systems capable of deceiving or destroying the anti-ship missile prior to the anti-ship missile hitting its target. Modern navies have spent thousands, if not millions of man-years considering and responding to the threat of anti-ship missiles since World War II, and the multiple, layered, computerized, active defense systems that they field aboard their surface combatants are extremely effective against almost all anti-ship missiles, with certain exceptions.

For example, the United States Navy has developed the computerized, automatic AEGIS anti-missile/anti-air/anti-satellite naval defense system, which is claimed to be able to track, engage, and destroy massive, though finite, quantities of incoming missiles (all at the same time) using agile long-range surface to air missiles. Any missiles that leak through the AEGIS system can then be deceived using electronic countermeasures or decoys, or defeated by a Close-in weapon system, such as the Phalanx and Goalkeeper CIWSes, or short-range anti-aircraft missiles, like the Sea Sparrow or the Rolling Airframe Missile. Russia (and the former USSR), various European nations, and the People's Republic of China have developed and deployed similar systems.

However, even as effective as these naval air defense systems are, they only retain their effectiveness as long as they retain their ammunition. And, even as expensive as the most-effective, modern anti-ship missiles are, they still remain extremely cost-effective, and do not lose this cost-effectiveness when launched in their most dangerous threat modality - namely, in massive, defense-saturation-level quantities - as the replacement cost of a single Nimitz-class supercarrier, not to mention the irreplaceable crew on board, is far in excess of even 1,000 of the most modern anti-ship missiles available, a quantity that, if launched en masse, would surely devastate even the most well-defended carrier that any sea-faring power could conceivably deploy.

As such, navies place a high premium on defending against anti-ship missiles, as even a handful getting through ship-based defenses could easily decimate an entire fleet.

Current Threats and Vulnerabilities

To counter these defense systems, countries like Russia are developing or deploying very low flying missiles (~5 m ASL) 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. naval analysts as potentially being able to penetrate current US Navy defensive platforms.


Countermeasures against anti-ship missiles include:

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

Examples include the Norwegian Skjold class patrol boats, Swedish Visby class corvettes, the German Sachsen class frigates, the US Arleigh Burke class destroyers, the Chinese Type 054 frigates, Chinese Type 052C destroyers, Indian INS Shivalik Class, and the French La Fayette class frigates.


  1. An interview with CL (R) Ing. Julio Pérez, chief designer of Exocet trailer-based launcher

See also

External links

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