The Exocet MM40 Block 3 weapon system is the latest generation ship-borne version of the Exocet family and is in operational service with several navies. The Block 3 Exocet is lighter than the previous MM40 Block 2 Exocet. It has an improved range, in excess of 180 kilometres (97 nautical miles)—through the use of a turbojet engine, and includes four air intakes to provide a continuous airflow to the power plant during high-G manoeuvers. The Block 3 missile accepts GPS guidance system waypoint commands, which allow it to attack naval targets from different angles and to strike land targets, giving it a marginal role as a land-attack missile.
The Exocet MM40 Block 3 provides enhanced operational performance and technology upgrades, while minimising the impact on procurement and logistic support costs. The flexibility of the Exocet MM40 Block 3 weapon is further enhanced by the accuracy of the new navigation package, allowing optimised 3D approach trajectories and terminal attacks from different azimuths, at very low sea skimming altitude with simultaneous time on target. The terminal guidance relies on a sophisticated J-band active seeker to discriminate and select targets at sea and on the GPS accuracy for land targets. The Block 3’s Mission Planning software module automatically computes engagement plans to support firing decisions.
In February 2004, the Délégation Générale pour l’Armement (DGA) notified MBDA of a contract for the design and production of a new missile, the MM40 Block 3. 45 Block 3 Exocets were ordered by the French Navy in December 2008 for its ships which were carrying Block 2 missiles, namely Horizon-class and Aquitaine-class frigates. These are not to be new productions but the conversion of older Block 2 missiles to the Block 3 standard. A MM40 Block 3 last qualification firing took place on the Île du Levant test range on 25 April 2007 and series manufacturing began in October 2008. The first firing of the Block 3 from a warship took place on 18 March 2010, from the French Navy air defense frigate Chevalier Paul. In 2012, a new motor, designed and manufactured in Brazil by the Avibras company in collaboration with MBDA, was tested on an MM40 missile of the Brazilian Navy.
Beside the French, the Block 3 has been ordered by several other navies including that of Greece, the UAE, Chile, Peru, Qatar, Oman, Indonesia and Morocco. Exocet MM40 Block 3 is compatible with most of the logistic support assets already in service. Its launching system is interoperable with all MM40 versions, thus enabling a smooth transition to Block 3. The Exocet (French for flying fish”) is a French-built anti-ship missile whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The Exocet has been manufactured in versions including: MM38 (surface-launched – deployed on warships), AM39 (air-launched), SM39 (submarine-launched) and MM40 (surface-launched – deployed on warships and in coastal batteries).
Of the 3,300 Exocet missiles that have been produced, including 1,260 MM38, 800 MM40, 1,100 AM39, and 140 SM39, with 400 MM40 Block 3 missiles on order to be produced, over 700 have been fired in combat. Argentina employed several Exocet missiles, including the MM38 and AM39, to attack British naval forces in the Falklands War. In May, 1982, Exocets struck the British merchant ship the Atlantic Conveyor and sank the HMS Sheffield, causing 32 British casualties. 12 In June, Argentina fired another missile at the HMS Glamorgan, damaging the ship. In 1987, during the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi fighter jets launched two AM39 missiles at the American frigate the USS Stark, killing 28 US naval personnel 13.