DefenceNet reports that the Greek Navy conducted an unannounced missile drill yesterday by firing an MM-38 Exocet anti-ship missile from a deserted beach on the eastern side of Crete. It is the first time such a test is conducted with this system after the Navy took delivery of two batteries of these missiles in 1993. This particular weapon, which consists of mobile launchers for surface to surface missiles, is considered a crucial strategic weapon in the Greek inventory as its installation on three Aegean islands denies crucial areas to a potential adversary.
One specific detail about yesterday’s launch was the fact that the MM-38 missile and its square launcher came from old fast attack craft and were modified to fit mobile launch vehicles. The two original batteries which were acquired use the MM-40 Block II missile which has a range of 60km. and is fired from different type launchers. The MM-38 missile fired yesterday has a range of 38km.
The fact that the launch happened unannounced from an abandoned beach and not from the NATO Missile Firing Installation (NAMFI) and the fact that the missile was directed towards the general area where Turkey and Egypt will conduct joint exercises seems to convey a message. After all, it is the first time such a test takes place with a weapon veiled in secrecy. The missile hit its target, the old minesweeper “Aigli”, at a distance of 31km.
The missile system is fully mobile. The missiles are carried in pairs or fours by truck and can hit surface vessels with pin point accuracy. The largest part of the missile’s flight path is flown at a height of two metres above the sea’s surface (sea skimming).
The MM-38 missiles are due to be upgraded to the MM-40 Block II standard (as revealed by a Navy spokesman to DefenceNet) and will thus be brought to the same standard as other missiles already operated by Greece and Cyprus. The MM-40 Block II has a range of 60km. Cyprus possesses 3 quadruple launchers with 24 missiles.
Exocet missiles were responsible for the damage inflicted upon the British Armada during the Falklands War. The Argentineans had less than 8 missiles at their disposal yet managed to sink four merchant and naval vessels.