The 2023 defense budget request document, which was published last week, mentions that the Exocet MM40 Block 3c missiles will be delivered in December 2022. As we previously reported, these missiles were initially set to be delivered in 2021. The latest budget document shows that only 4 missiles will be delivered this year, with an additional 31 MM40 Block 3c missiles set to be delivered in 2023. The total number of missiles on order is 55.
Contacted by Naval News, a DGA spokesperson explained:
“The delivery of the first MM40 Block 3c missile is postponed to the end of 2022 following industrial delays in development and the impact of the pandemic on industrial capacities.”
In addition, the French Ministry of Armed Forces ordered 45 “MM40 Block 3c kits”, the first ones of which (four in total) are set to be delivered in September next year. According to our information these kits will be used to turn the MM40 Block 3 missiles into the latest Block 3c variant.
According to the budget document, “the EXOCET Operation makes it possible to retain the anti-ship capabilities provided by the EXOCET missile system, available in air launched (AM39), surface launched (MM40) and submarine launched (SM39) variants. The operation maintains or even improves its robustness in the face of new threats as well as its implementation from new platforms.“
The document also mentions the following regarding the future FCASW missile: “The FCASW operation ensures the preservation of the Navy’s anti-ship capability post 2030 by improving the survivability performance of the existing capability. The ramp-up phase carried out jointly with the United Kingdom should make it possible to choose the option to meet the operational need prior to the launch in production”.
Exocet MM40 Block 3c
Compared to the existing Block 3, the “Block 3c” variant brings to the Exocet a new digital RF seeker by Thales. The “c” stands for coherent. The most important benefit of Coherent Radar Processing is the ability to differentiate relatively small differences in velocity (which correspond to small differences in phase). This coherent target processing technology offers Doppler resolution/estimation and provides less interference and signal/noise benefits relative to non-coherent processing.
Basically, the new MM40 Block 3c will be more resistant to the latest jamming systems and is will probably (“on paper” at least) even be able to recognize surface vessels, thanks to the use of advanced wave forms: This means that the new seeker will potentially be able to recognize a targeted ship within a group of ships and impact specific areas of that target. This is already achieved with modern anti-ship missiles such as the LRASM and NSM, but both of these use infra-red (IR) seekers.
While the Block 3 upgrade of the Exocet brought a longer range (200 Km) thanks to a turbojet engine and the ability to strike coastal targets, thanks to GPS navigation, it used the same RF seeker as the Block 2: A 30+ years old technology that wasn’t digital.
Similar upgrades on the AM39 air to surface variant is not planned. However the SM39 submarine launched variant could receive a seeker upgrade. These two missiles have already received a digitization upgrade of their systems bringing them to the AM39 Block2 Mod2 standard for the Rafale F3 and to the SM39 Block2 Mod2 standard for the Suffren-class submarines (Barracuda SSN program). The Coherent seeker upgrade could bring the later missile to the SM39 Block 3c standard.
With this latest variant of the Exocet family (which started its service in the 1970ies with the MM38) in its inventory, the French Navy is set to have a very capable anti-ship missile until its replacement, the FCAS/W, comes along in the 2030ies.
Exocet MM40 Block 3 basic specifications:
• Weight: 780 kg
• Length: less than 6 m
• Speed: high subsonic
• Range: 200 km class effective operational range
• Missions: Anti-ship as well as littoral operations and coastal land attack capability
Exocet Anti-ship missiles procurement targets:
Exocet missiles schedule:
MM40 Block 3c order & delivery schedule