French MBDA (ex MATRA) Weapons - Machtres Fighters

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French MBDA (ex MATRA) Weapons

Planes > Weapons

MICA (Air-to-Air missile)

The MBDA MICA (Missile d’interception et de combat aérien, “Interception and Aerial Combat Missile”) is an anti-air multi-target, all weather, fire-and-forget short and medium-range missile system. It is intended for use both by air platforms as individual missiles as well as ground units and ships, which can be equipped with the rapid fire MICA Vertical Launch System. It is fitted with a thrust vector control (TVC) system.

It was developed from 1982 onward by Matra. The first trials occurred in 1991, and the missile was commissioned in 1996 to equip the Rafale and Mirage 2000. It is a replacement for both Super 530 (interception) and Magic II (dogfight). Two can be fired in a two-second interval.


Type Short to Medium-Range Air to Air Tactical Missile
Place of origin France

Service history

In service 1996 (MICA-EM) and 2000 (MICA-IR)

Production history

Manufacturer MBDA


Weight 112 Kg.
Length 3.1 m

Diameter 160 mm
Detonation  mechanism RF proximity fuze, impact fuze
Engine One  SNPE solid-propellant rocket motor
Wingspan 560 mm
Operational  range from < 500 m to > 60 km
Flight altitude up to 11,000 m
Speed Mach 4

Guidance  system

Inertial guidance
MICA-EM: Active radar homing
MICA-IR: Imaging Infrared homing
Launch  platform Dassault Rafale, Mirage 2000, F-16E Block 60

Exocet  (anti-ship missile

The Exocet is built by MBDA, a European missile company. Development began in 1967 by Nord as a ship-launched missile named MM 38. A few years later Aerospatiale and Nord merged. The basic missile body design was based on the Nord AS30 air to ground tactical missile. The air-launched Exocet was developed in 1974 and entered service with the French Navy five years later.

The relatively compact missile is designed for attacking small- to medium-size warships (e.g. frigates, corvettes, and destroyers), although multiple hits are effective against larger vessels, such as aircraft carriers. It is guided inertially in mid-flight and turns on active radar late in its flight to find and hit its target. Its solid propellant engine gives the Exocet a maximum range of 70 km (43 mi; 38 nmi). The solid-propellant engine was replaced on the Block 3 MM40 ship-launched version of the missile with a solid-propellant booster and a turbojet sustainer engine which extends the range to 180 km (110 mi; 97 nmi). The submarine-launched version places the missile and a naval booster inside a launch capsule.

The Exocet has been manufactured in a number of versions, including:

  • MM38 (surface-launched)
  • AM38 (helicopter-launched - tested only)
  • AM39 (air-launched)
  • SM39 (submarine-launched)
  • MM40 (surface-launched)

The chief competitors to the Exocet are the U.S.-made Harpoon, and the Chinese Yingji series.

MM40 Block 3

The newest MM40 version (MM40 block 3) has an improved range of 180 km (110 mi; 97 nmi) through the use of a turbofan engine, and includes four air intakes to provide continuous airflow to the engine during high-G maneuvers.

The Block 3 missiles accept GPS guidance system waypoint commands, which allow them to attack naval targets from different angles and to strike land targets, giving them a marginal role as a cruise missile. The Block 3 Exocet is lighter than the previous MM40 Block 2 Exocets.

Type Medium-range anti-ship missile
Place of origin France

Service history

In service 1979

Production history

Manufacturer MBDA


Weight 670 Kg. (1,500 lb)
Length 4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)
Diameter 34.8 cm (1 ft 1.7 in)

Warhead 165 kg. (360 lb)


solid propelland engine

turbojet (MM40 Block 3 version)


1.1 meters (3 ft 7 in)

Operational  range

70-180 Km. (43-110 mi; 38-97 nmi)

Flight altitude



315 meters per second (1,030 ft/s)

Guidance  system

Inertial and active radar

Launch  platform


  • MM38 surface-launched
  • AM39 air-launched
  • SM39 submarine-launched
  • MM40 surface-launched

Malvinas War

In 1982, during the Malvinas War, the Exocet became noted worldwide when Argentine Navy Super Etendard warplanes carrying the AM39 Air Launched version of Exocet caused irreparable damage and disabled the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Sheffield on 4 May 1982; and when the 15,000 ton merchant ship Atlantic Conveyor was struck by two Exocet anti-ship missiles on 25 May. Two MM38 ship-to-ship Exocet missiles were removed from the old destroyer ARA Seguí, a retired US Sumner class, and transferred to an improvised launcher for land use. One of these was fired at, and caused damage to, the Destroyer HMS Glamorgan on 12 June.

While the Argentineans claimed that an Exocet-armed Super Etendard attack on 30 May damaged the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.

The Exocet that struck HMS Sheffield impacted on the second deck, 2.4 m. (7 ft 10 in) above the waterline and penetrated deeply into Sheffield's control room, near the forward engine room, creating a hole in the hull roughly 1.2 by 3 m. (3.9 by 9.8 ft). It appears that the warhead did not explode. Accounts suggest that the initial impact of the missile destroyed the ship's electrical generation systems and fractured the water main, preventing the fire suppresion mechanisms from operating and dooming the ship to be consumed by the fire. The loss of Sheffield was a shock to the British.

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