Anti-shipping missile

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{{subpages} Anti-shipping missiles are a subset of guided missile, which may be surface-to-surface missiles (either land- or ship-launched), air-to-surface missiles, and underwater-to-surface missiles. For this article, they can be assumed to be attacking a ship target beyond visual range of the launching platform, which requires them to have a target sensor that can pick out a ship against the interference of moving water.

By this definition, the German Fritz-X is not technically an anti-shipping missile, because the operator, aboard a bomber aircraft, visually tracked both the missile and the target. From the perspective of the launching platform, however, manned kamikaze aircraft were anti-shipping missiles, because the final selection of a target and intercepting it depended on the senses of the suicide pilot, not sensors on the launching aircraft or airfield.

There has been a trend to make anti-shipping missiles fly at very low, "sea-skimming" altitudes. While that gives the target a harder defensive problem, since the missile may not be detected until it is very close, the missile has the reverse problem: it is harder to detect the target from low altitude. Methods to help the missile find the target can include midcourse guidance corrections from a ship-launched helicopter, long-range reconnaissance aircraft, or a submerged submarine near the target.

While early and effective anti-shipping missiles were subsonic, the latest families of sea-skimming missiles are very fast, again to deprive the target of defensive time. Close-in defensive systems are migrating from autocannon to missiles, in the hope of intercepting farther away, with more time for additional shots if the first misses. In many air defense applications, not just against anti-shipping missiles, the defender fires the surface-to-air missiles in pairs, to increase the probability of a hit.

Representative missiles







The West refers to several different Russian missiles by the NATO designation SS-N-22 SUNBURN. They have been informally called the "Harpoonski," but have superior performance to the U.S. Harpoon.

=Moskit P270

=Moskit 3M80

=Moskit 3M82

United Kingdom

  • Sea Eagle

United States

  • Harpoon
  • Standard SM-2 in anti-shipping mode