An anti-ship missile (AShM) is a guided missile that is 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 active 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. The term surface-to-surface missile (SSM) is used when appropriate. The longer-range anti-ship missiles are often called anti-ship cruise missiles.
A typical abbreviation for the phrase "anti-ship missile" is AShM or ASHM, it used to avoid confusion with air-to-surface missiles (ASMs), anti-submarine missiles (Anti-Submarine Warfare Missiles (ASWMs)) and anti-satellite missiles (ASatMs or ASATMs).
Anti-ship missiles (AShMs) were among the first instances of short-range guided weapons during World War II in 1943-1944. 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 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, starting with the U.S. Navy's SWOD-9 Bat - the first autonomously-guided, radar-homing anti-ship weapon deployed worldwide, being deployed against the Japanese in April 1945 - but the Bat saw little use in combat, partly from its own late-war deployment date leaving few axis ships remaining as targets.
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 onto 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-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 missile boats. In this battle, the Israeli Navy destroyed Syrian warships without suffering any damage, using electronic countermeasures and ruses 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 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, but she was able to take evasive action that restricted the damage.
In 1987, a US Navy guided-missile frigate, 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 to steam to a friendly port for temporary repairs.
In 1988 AShMs 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 AShMs (and by the US Navy's Standard missiles--surface-to-air missiles which were doing double-duty in the anti-ship role). The US Navy hit the Iranian Navy frigate Sahand with three Harpoon missiles, four AGM-123 Skipper rocket-propelled bombs, a Walleye TV-guided bomb, and several 1,000 lb (454 kg) "iron bombs". Despite the large number of munitions and successful hits, Sahand did not sink until fire reached her ammunition magazine, causing it to detonate, sinking the vessel. 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 onto 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.
|Zircon||Expected for (2018- 2020)||Size 4 pcs instead of 1 P-700 for 1 launcher||?||400 km (220 nmi) (export) / 1,000 km (540 nmi) (domestic)||Min 4700 km/h (Mach 5 to 6), up to 8M||?||Surface, submarine||?||Russia|
|P-700 Granit||1980||7,000 kg (15,000 lb)||750 kg (1,650 lb)||625 km (337 nmi)||2,550 km/h (1,380 kn)||Solid-fuel ramjet||Surface||Inertial, active radar homing/anti radar, mid course correction||USSR/Russia|
|P-1000||1985||6,300 kg (13,900 lb)||500 kg (1,100 lb)||Approx. 700 and 1000 km (or 800 km)||3,825 km/h (2,065 kn)||Solid-fuel ramjet||Surface||Inertial, active radar homing/anti radar, mid course correction||USSR/Russia|
|Fritz X||1943||1,362 kg (3,003 lb)||320 kg (710 lb)||5 km (2.7 nmi)||1,235 km/h (667 kn)||None (glide bomb)||Air||Manual (radio link)||Germany||Used in combat|
|Henschel Hs 293||1943||1,045 kg (2,304 lb)||295 kg (650 lb)||5 kg (11 lb)||828 km/h (447 kn)||Liquid-propellant, then gliding||Air||MCLOS (radio link)||Germany||Used in combat|
|Kh-55||1984||1,700 kg (3,700 lb)||410 kg (900 lb) conventional/200 kt nuclear||300 km (160 nmi)||828 km/h (447 kn)||Turbofan||Air||Radar inertial, tERCOM, infrared||USSR/Russia|
|Blohm & Voss BV 246||1943||730 kg (1,610 lb)||435 kg (959 lb)||210 km (110 nmi)||450 km/h (240 kn)||None (glide bomb)||Air||Manual (radio link)||Germany|
|Ohka||1943||2,140 kg (4,720 lb)||1,200 kg (2,600 lb)||36 km (19 nmi)||630 km/h (340 kn)||Solid-propellant||Air||Manned (suicide attack)||Japan||Used in combat|
|Type 80||1982||600 kg (1,300 lb)||150 kg (330 lb)||50 km (27 nmi)||?||Turbojet||Air||Infrarred||Japan|
|Type 91||1991||510 kg (1,120 lb)||260 kg (570 lb)||150 km (81 nmi)||?||Turbojet||Air||Inertial, mid course correction, active radar||Japan|
|Type 93||1993||530 kg (1,170 lb)||?||170 km (92 nmi)||1,150 km/h (620 kn)||Turbojet||Air||Inertial and IR Image||Japan|
|XASM-3||2016||900 kg (2,000 lb)||?||150 km (81 nmi)||?||Ramjet||Air||Inertial / GPS, mid-course correction, active/passive radar||Japan|
|Hsiung Feng I||1978||537.5 kg (1,185 lb)||150 kg (330 lb)||40 km (22 nmi)||?||Solid-fuel rocket||Air, surface||Inertial / Radar beam riding plus terminal semi-active homing||Taiwan|
|Bat||1944||1,000 kg (2,200 lb)||727 kg (1,603 lb)||37 km (20 nmi)||260-390 km/h (140-210 kn)||None||Air||Active radar||United States||Used in combat|
|Harpoon||1977||691 kg (1,523 lb)||221 kg (487 lb)||280 km (150 nmi)||864 km/h (467 kn)||Turbojet engine||Air, surface, submarine||Radar (B3: midcourse update)||United States||Used in combat|
|AS.34 Kormoran||1991||630 kg (1,390 lb)||220 kg (490 lb)||35 km (19 nmi)||1,101 km/h (594 kn)||Rocket||Air||Inertial, active radar||Germany|
|Penguin||1972||385 kg (849 lb)||130 kg (290 lb)||Over 55 km (30 nmi)||1,468 km/h (793 kn)||Solid propellant||Air, surface, submarine||Inertial, laser, infrarred||Norway|
|AGM-65F Maverick||1972||300 kg (660 lb)||140 kg (310 lb)||30 km (16 nmi)||1,150 km/h (620 kn)||Solid propellant||Air||Laser, infrarred||United States||Used in combat|
|Naval Strike Missile||2009||410 kg (900 lb)||125 kg (276 lb)||185 km (100 nmi)||High subsonic||Turbojet and solid fuel booster||Air, surface||Inertial, GPS, terrain-reference, imaging IR, target database||Norway|
|AGM-123 Skipper II||1985||582 kg (1,283 lb)||450 kg (990 lb)||25 km (13 nmi)||1,100 km/h (590 kn)||Solid-fueled||Air||Laser-guided||United States||Used in combat|
|SS.12/AS.12||1960||76 kg (168 lb)||28 kg (62 lb)||7 km (3.8 nmi)||370 km/h (200 kn)||Solid-fueled||Air, surface||Wire-guided MCLOS||France|
|BGM-109B Tomahawk||1983||1,200 kg (2,600 lb)||450 kg (990 lb)||450 km (240 nmi)||880 km/h (480 kn)||Turbofan||Air, surface, submarine||GPS, TERCOM, DSMAC||United States||Used in combat|
|RB 04||1955||600 kg (1,300 lb)||300 kg (660 lb)||32 km (17 nmi)||Subsonic||Solid propellant||Air||Active radar||Sweden|
|RB 08||1966||?||?||70 km (38 nmi)||Subsonic||Turbojet||Surface||Radio link active radar||France/Sweden|
|RBS-15||1985||800 kg (1,800 lb)||200 kg (440 lb)||200 km (110 nmi)||1,101 km/h (594 kn)||Turbojet||Air, surface||Inertial, GPS, radar||Sweden|
|Exocet||1979||670 kg (1,480 lb)||165 kg (364 lb)||180 km (97 nmi)||1,134 km/h (612 kn)||Solid propellant (Block 1, block 2), turbojet (Block 3)||Air, surface, submarine||Inertial, active radar||France||Used in combat|
|Gabriel||1962||522 kg (1,151 lb)||150 kg (330 lb)||60 km (32 nmi)||840 km/h (450 kn)||Solid-fuel rocket||Air, surface||Active radar||Israel||Used in combat|
|Otomat||1977||770 kg (1,700 lb)||210 kg (460 lb)||Over 360 km (190 nmi)||1,116 km/h (603 kn)||Turbojet||Surface, air||Inertial, GPS, active radar||Italy|
|Martel||1984||550 kg (1,210 lb)||150 kg (330 lb)||60 km (32 nmi)||1,070 km/h (580 kn)||Solid propellant||Air||Passive radar, video||United Kingdom/France|
|Sea Eagle||1985||580 kg (1,280 lb)||230 kg (510 lb)||Over 110 km (59 nmi)||1,000 km/h (540 kn)||Turbojet||Air||Inertial, active radar||United Kingdom|
|Sea Skua||1983||145 kg (320 lb)||28 kg (62 lb)||25 km (13 nmi)||950 km/h (510 kn)||Solid fuel||Air||Semi-active radar||United Kingdom||Used in combat|
|LRASM||2013 / 2018||~900 kg||450 kg||370-560 km||High subsonic||Liquid-fuel rocket||Air, ship||Passive radar and infrared homing||United States|
|BrahMos-II||2017+||?||?||290 km (160 nmi)||6,125-8,575 km/h (3,307-4,630 kn)||Scramjet||Ship, surface, air, submarine||?||India/Russia|
|KSShch (SS-N-1 SCRUBBER)||1958||2,300 kg (5,100 lb)||Nuclear||40 km (22 nmi)||1,150 km/h (620 kn)||Liquid-fuel rocket||Surface||Inertial||USSR|
|P-15 Termit (SS-N-2 STYX)||1958||3,100 kg (6,800 lb)||454 kg (1,001 lb)||80 km (43 nmi)||1,100 km/h (590 kn)||Liquid fuel rocket||Surface||Active radar, infrarred||USSR||Used in combat|
|P-5 Pyatyorka (SS-N-3 SHADDOCK)||1959||5,000 kg (11,000 lb)||1,000 kg (2,200 lb)||750 km (400 nmi)||1,000 km/h (540 kn)||Turbojet||Surface||Inertial, mid course correction, active radar||USSR|
|Kh-22 (AS-4 Kitchen)||1962||5,820 kg (12,830 lb)||1000 kg conventional/nuclear||400 km (220 nmi)||4,000 km/h (2,200 kn)||Liquid-fuel rocket||Air||Inertial||USSR/Russia|
|P-70 Ametist (SS-N-7 STARBRIGHT)||1968||3,500 kg (7,700 lb)||500 kg (1,100 lb)||65 km (35 nmi)||1,050 km/h (570 kn)||Solid rocket||Sub||Inertial, terminal homing||USSR|
|Moskit (SS-N-22 SUNBURN)||1970||4,500 kg (9,900 lb)||320 kg (710 lb)||120 km (65 nmi)||3,600 km/h (1,900 kn)||Ramjet||Surface, air||Active radar, infrarred||USSR|
|P-120 Malakhit (SS-N-9 SIREN)||1972||2,953 kg (6,510 lb)||500 kg (1,100 lb)||110 km (59 nmi)||Mach 0.9||Turbojet, solid fuel||Surface||Inertial, mid course correction, active radar||USSR||Used in combat|
|P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12 SANDBOX)||1975||4,500 kg (9,900 lb)||1000 kg / 350 kt nuclear||550 km (300 nmi)||3,060 km/h (1,650 kn)||Liquid fuel rocket||Surface, submarine||Semi-active, terminal active radar||USSR|
|P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26)||1983||3,000 kg (6,600 lb)||250 kg (550 lb)||300 km (160 nmi)||3,600 km/h (1,900 kn)||Ramjet||Surface, air||Active-passive, radar||Russia|
|3M-54 Kalibr (SS-N-27 SIZZLER)||1993||1,300-2,300 kg (2,900-5,100 lb)||200 kg (440 lb)||660 km (360 nmi)||0.8 M, 2.5/2.9M||Turbojet||Surface, sub, shipping container||Inertial, active radar||Russia|
|3M-54E1 Klub (SS-N-27 SIZZLER)||2006||1,780 kg (3,920 lb)||400 kg (880 lb)||300 km (160 nmi)||0.8 M, 2.5/2.9M||Turbojet||Surface, sub, shipping container||Inertial, active radar||Russia|
|3M-54E Klub (SS-N-27 SIZZLER)||2006||2,300 kg (5,100 lb)||200 kg (440 lb)||220 km (120 nmi)||0.8 M, 2.5/2.9M||Turbojet||Surface, sub, shipping container||Inertial, active radar||Russia|
|Kh-35 (AS-20 KAYAK)||1983||520 kg (1,150 lb)||145 kg (320 lb)||130 km (70 nmi)||970 km/h (520 kn)||Turbofan||Surface, air||Inertial, active radar||USSR/Russia/North Korea|
|Kh-15 (AS-16 Kickback)||1988||1,200 kg (2,600 lb)||150 kg conventional/nuclear||300 km (160 nmi)||6,125 km/h (3,307 kn)||Solid-fuel rocket||Air||Inertial/Active radar||USSR/Russia|
|P15 & Silkworm KN1||?||?||?||?||?||Turbofan||Surface, coastal||Inertial, active radar||North Korea/USSR/Russia|
|Hae Sung-I (SSM-700K)||2005||718 kg (1,583 lb)||300 kg (660 lb)||150 km (81 nmi)||1,013 km/h (547 kn)||Turbojet||Ship, surface||Inertial, active radar||South Korea|
|SOM (missile)||2006||600 kg (1,300 lb)||230 kg (510 lb)||Over 185 km (100 nmi) km||1,153 km/h (623 kn)||Turbojet||Air||Inertial / GPS, terrain referenced navigation, automatic target recognition, imaging infrared||Turkey|
|Atmaca||2017||800 kg (1,800 lb)||200 kg (440 lb)||Over 200 km (110 nmi)||1,042 km/h (563 kn)||Turbojet||Surface, air||Inertial/GPS+RA+DL||Turkey|
|BrahMos||2006||2,500 kg (5,500 lb) (air), 3,000 kg (6,600 lb) (ground)||300 kg (660 lb)||290 km (160 nmi)||3,675 km/h (1,984 kn)||Ramjet||Ship, surface, air, submarine||Inertial, active radar||India/Russia|
|Hsiung Feng III||2007||1,500 kg (3,300 lb)||225 kg (496 lb)||130 km (70 nmi)||2,300 km/h (1,200 kn)||Ramjet||Ship, surface||Inertial, active radar||Taiwan|
|MANSUP||2009||380 kg (840 lb)||250 kg (550 lb)||74-100 km (40-54 nmi)||870 km/h (470 kn)||Solid-fuel rocket||Ship, surface||Inertial, active radar||Brazil|
Anti-ship missiles are a significant threat to surface ships, which have large radar, radio, and thermal signatures that are difficult to suppress. Once acquired, a ship cannot outrun or out-turn 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 or destroy all of the incoming missiles.
Modern navies have spent much time and effort developing counters to the threat of anti-ship missiles since World War II. Anti-ship 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 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 AShMs might "leak" past the 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 themselves 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 (SAM) to simultaneously track, engage, and destroy several incoming anti-ship missiles or hostile warplanes at a time.
The primary American defensive system, called the Aegis Combat System, is also used by the navies of Japan, Spain, Norway, and South Korea, and Australia. The Aegis system has been designed to defend against mass attacks by hostile anti-ship missiles 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, destroyed by a close-in weapon system (CIWS), such as the American Phalanx CIWS, Russian Kashtan CIWS, or the Dutch Goalkeeper CIWS.
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.
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.
Countermeasures against anti-ship missiles include:
On February 25, 1991, during the first Gulf War, the Phalanx-equipped USS Jarrett was a few miles from USS Missouri and the destroyer HMS Gloucester. 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 Missouris chaff, releasing a burst of rounds. From this burst, four rounds hit Missouri which was two to three miles (3.2 to 4.8 km) from Jarrett at the time. There were no injuries. 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 Zumwalt-class destroyer and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, their Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force's close counterparts in Aegis warships, the Atago-class destroyer, and the Kongo-class destroyer, the Chinese Type 054 frigate and the Type 052C destroyer, Russian Navy's Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate and Steregushchiy-class corvette, the Indian Shivalik-class frigate and Kolkata-class destroyer, the French La Fayette-class frigate, the FREMM multipurpose frigate and the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer.
In response to China's development of anti-ship missiles and other anti-access/area denial capabilities, the United States has developed the AirSea Battle doctrine. Amitai Etzioni of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies has characterized AirSea Battle as an escalatory military posture that entails ordering new or additional weapons systems, and has stated that AirSea Battle could "lead to an arms race with China, which could culminate in a nuclear war."