Naval Warfare

France Directorate General of Armament Orders Exocet MM40 Block 3C Anti-ship Missiles

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France Directorate General of Armament Orders Exocet MM40 Block 3C Anti-ship Missiles

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France Directorate General of Armament Orders Exocet MM40 Block 3C Anti-ship Missiles
France Directorate General of Armament Orders Exocet MM40 Block 3C Anti-ship Missiles

On April 19, 2024, the General Directorate of Armament (Direction générale de l’armement, DGA) placed a significant order with MBDA for Exocet MM40 Block 3C (MM40 B3C) missiles, aimed at equipping France’s premier naval frigates. This procurement is in line with the Military Programming Law (LPM) 2024-2030, reflecting France’s commitment to maintaining cutting-edge maritime defense capabilities. The new MM40 B3C version of the Exocet missile promises enhanced operational capacity, boasting improvements in range, precision, and resistance to modern countermeasures. With a range exceeding 200 km, the B3C version features a digital radio altimeter and a new seeker designed to counter advanced electronic countermeasures and stealth technology.

These advanced missiles are set to be deployed on the French Navy’s leading frigates, including the multi-mission frigate (FREMM, Frégate Européenne Multi-Mission/Fregata Europea Multi-Missione), air defense frigate (FDA, Frégates de Défense Aérienne), and the future defense and intervention frigate (FDI, Frégate de Défense et d’Intervention). The Exocet family, known for its high subsonic speed, has evolved through several iterations—Block 1, 2, 3, and now 3C—each enhancing the missile’s capabilities. The decision to upgrade follows a successful technical-operational evaluation conducted on September 20, 2023. This evaluation, coordinated by the DGA and the French Navy, took place on the multi-mission frigate with enhanced air defense capabilities (FREMM DA) Alsace.

Exocet MM40 Block 3C (MM40 B3C) anti-ship missile
Exocet MM40 Block 3C (MM40 B3C) anti-ship missile. (Photo by MBDA)

The test demonstrated the advanced performance of the B3C seeker in complex electronic warfare scenarios. Deliveries of the MM40 B3C anti-ship missiles, which began in January 2024, will now be supplemented by this new order. Additionally, MBDA is modernizing existing MM40 B3 anti-ship missiles to the B3C standard. The production and assembly of these missiles involve a wide network of subcontractors across France, with final assembly conducted at MBDA’s Selles-Saint-Denis facility in Loir-et-Cher. This strategic enhancement of the French Navy’s missile arsenal underscores France’s dedication to maintaining a robust and technologically advanced maritime defense posture.

The Exocet is a French-built anti-ship missile whose various versions can be launched from surface vessels, submarines, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The anti-ship missile is built by MBDA, a European missile company. Development began in 1967 by Nord as a ship-launched weapon named the MM38. A few years later, Aerospatiale and Nord merged. The basic body design was based on the Nord AS-30 air-to-ground tactical missile. The sea-launched MM38 entered service in 1975 and entered service with the French Navy five years later in 1979. It was replaced on the MM40 Block 3 ship-launched version of the missile with a solid-propellant booster and a turbojet sustainer engine which extends the range of the missile to more than 180 kilometres (110 mi; 97 nmi).

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