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French Navy to Get Significantly Upgraded Exocet MM40 Block 3C


The French Navy (Marine Nationale) will soon receive a major upgrade for its iconic Exocet anti-ship missile: The new "Block 3C" upgrade will bring a digital seeker to the MM40 missile.


French Navy to Get Significantly Upgraded Exocet MM40 Block 3C 2 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. File picture © MBDA / Michel Hans / 2007


Mentions of the "Block 3C" variant surfaced recently in many public documents such as public hearings at the French National Assembly (Commission de la Défense nationale et des Forces armées, somewhat equivalent to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee of the United States House of Representatives) or in military planning law documents.

Navy Recognition reached out to the French Navy to learn more about this new Exocet MM40 Block 3C. While the MM40 Block 3 is well known, virtually no information exists so far on the 3C variant:
The French Navy explained to us that the C corresponds to "Coherent": the MM40 B3C integrates a new coherent (or digital) seeker allowing a more efficient processing and increased performances of the missile. The French Navy is fitting its first-line frigates with this new MM40 B3C capacity. It will acquire 15 new missiles from 2019/2020 and modernize the existing stock to homogenize the entire MM40 missile fleet. The French Navy further explained the modernization will consist in the obsolescence management and in the improvement of the performance of the existing stock).

Navy Recognition understands that, while the missile range or speed are unlikely to change compared to the existing Block 3 variant, it will be upgraded with a new IIR (imaging infra red) seeker allowing the missile to recognize surface vessels profiles (thanks to a ship profile database stored on board).

This is significant because, similarly to anti-ship missiles of the latest generation such as the Norwegian (Kongsberg) NSM or American (Lockhed martin) LRASM, MM40 B3C would potentially be able to recognize a target within a group of ships and impact specific areas of the targeted surface vessel (such as its bridge, CIC, helicopter hangar, weapon or sensor systems ...). By using advanced image processing techniques, the target shape can be used to find its most vulnerable part toward which the missile is then steered.

The French defense procurement agency DGA and missile designer and manufacturer MBDA declined to comment on the Block 3C upgrade.


French Navy to Get Significantly Upgraded Exocet MM40 Block 3C 1 First Exocet MM40 Block 3 firing from frigate Horizon Chevalier Paul. 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. File picture © MBDA / Michel Hans / 2010


About the Exocet MM40 Block 3
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.

Exocet MM40 Block 3 provides enhanced operational performance and technology upgrades, while minimising the impact on procurement and logistic support costs.

Exocet MM40 Block 3’s Mission Planning software module automatically computes engagement plans to support firing decisions.

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.

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.

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