1997-10-13

The Origins of the Anti-Ship Guided Missile 975652

Air-launched anti-ship guided missiles (ASGM) have achieved widespread notoriety since the Argentine Navy effectively employed Exocet missiles launched from Super Entendart fighters against Royal Navy warships and supporting auxiliary vessels during the Falklands conflict of the early-1980s. During the same conflict, the Royal Navy used thehelicopter-launched Sea Skua to disable a surfaced Argentine submarine and other small vessels. In subsequent years, Exocet, Sea Skua. Harpoon and other members of the growing air-launched ASGM family have been used in a number of situations culminating in their widespread employment during the Gulf War. Launched from aircraft operating under the protective blanket of coalition air superiority, air-launched ASGMs virtually annihilated the Iraqi surface fleet. Today, the air-launched ASGM has widely proliferated becoming a standard and highly potent weapon in the arsenal of nearly all nations that possess modern combat aircraft.
Some recent journal articles and publications trace the first effective use of ASGMs to the Falklands War. However, the truth is far more interesting revealing an ASGM development history extending back to the First World War. In the 1920s and 1930s, radio-controlled aircraft were developed, primarily for use as realistic targets for live-fire training of anti-aircraft gunners. During the Second World War, work on air-to-surface guided missiles, including explosive-laden radio-controlled aircraft, was conducted by many of the major combatants. However, only one country actually fielded and extensively used ASGMs in significant quantities. During the middle years of the Second World War, two different German air-launched ASGMs, the radio-controlled Henshel Hs 293 and the Ruhrstahl Fritz X, achieved major and highly dramatic successes against allied fleets. This paper traces the evolution of these weapons, describes their characteristics and operational use and the results that they achieved and considers allied countermeasures that were developed and used in an attempt to limit their proven combat effectiveness.

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