Missile boat

A missile boat or missile cutter is a small fast warship armed with anti-ship missiles. Being smaller than other warships such as destroyers and frigates, missile boats are popular with nations interested in forming a navy at lower cost. They are similar in concept to the torpedo boats of World War II; in fact, the first missile boats were modified torpedo boats with the torpedo tubes replaced by missile tubes.

The doctrine behind the use of missile boats is based on the principle of mobility over defence and firepower. The advent of proper guided missile and electronic countermeasure technologies gave birth to the idea that warships could now be designed to outmaneuver their enemies and conceal themselves while carrying powerful weapons.

Previously, increasing the potency of naval artillery required larger projectiles, which required larger and heavier guns, which in turn called for larger ships to carry these guns and their ammunition and absorb their recoil. This trend culminated in the giant battleships of World War II. The ability to deploy anti-ship guided self-propelled warheads from small, maneuverable platforms partially negated the advantages provided by the earlier and larger warships.

Missile boats, when equipped with sophisticated anti-ship missiles, and especially when used in a swarm, can pose a significant threat to even the largest of capital ships, and do so at much greater ranges than is possible with torpedoes.

Osa-I class Project205 DN-SN-84-01770
An Osa I class missile boat in 1983. The Osa class are probably the most numerous class of missile boats to have been built.
Robotbåten Ystad - R142 - Ystad-2017
HMS Ystad of the Swedish Navy 2017.

Design and history

Missile boats were invented and first manufactured by the Soviet Union in the 1950s, beginning with "Project 183R" which developed into the Komar-class missile boat, mounting two P-15 Termit (Styx) anti-ship missiles in box launchers and a twin 25mm autocannon on a 25-metre (82 ft) wooden hull displacing 66.5 tonnes (65.4 long tons; 73.3 short tons) Four diesel engines gave the Komars 4,800 bhp (3,600 kW) and a top speed of around 44 knots (81 km/h; 51 mph). Endurance was limited to 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km; 1,200 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph) and the vessels had fuel and supplies for only five days at sea. 112 Komar-class vessels were produced, while over 400 examples were built of the following Osa-class missile boat, with a significant number of both types being sold to pro-Soviet nations.

Being relatively small and constructed of wood, the Komar-class boats had a very small radar cross-section. Its sophisticated radar enabled the missile boat, with its low radar reflectivity, to detect a larger enemy ship before the latter was aware of its presence, fire its missiles and speed away.

Soviet naval architects had designed them with these characteristics to give the small boats this advantage against much larger American naval ships should they attempt to attack the Russian coast. The boats were designed for coastal operations, with limited endurance.[1]

The first combat use of missile boats was by the Egyptian Navy operating Komar-class craft, which fired four Styx missiles (hitting with three) at the Israeli destroyer Eilat on October 21, 1967, shortly after the Six-Day War, sinking the Eilat with 47 dead and over a hundred wounded out of a crew of 199.[2]

Schnellboot Gepard-Klasse Typ 143 A
A Gepard-class vessel of the German Navy

The Soviet-built boats prompted a NATO response, which became more intense after the sinking of Eilat. The Germans and French worked together to produce their own missile boat, resulting in the La Combattante class. These were built on a 47-or-49-metre (154 or 161 ft) hull with 12,000 bhp (8,900 kW) of MTU diesel engines driving four shafts; a common weapon loadout would have four MM-38 Exocet missiles in two sets of two box launchers, in line and offset to the right and left with a 76 mm gun forward and 40 mm twin guns aft. Built until 1974, a total of 68 Combattante IIs were launched. The design was immediately followed by the Combattante III (1975 - 1990) which added 9 metres (30 ft) to hull length but kept the same armament (plus two twin 30mm autocannon), 43 of this type were produced. Several other countries produced their own versions of the Combattante, notably Israel with the Sa'ar 3 and the Sa'ar 4 variants.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Indian Navy's 25th Missile Boat Squadron, operating Vidyut-class missile boats, played a crucial role in the devastating Indian attacks on Karachi in December 1971. The two key operations in which these vessels played an active role were Operation Trident and Operation Python. Indian attacks destroyed half of the Pakistani Navy[3] and most of Pakistan's naval fuel reserves in the port's fuel storage tanks which cleared the way for the decisive victory of the Indian Armed Forces.[1][4]

The world's first naval battles between missile-armed warships occurred between Israeli Sa'ar 3-class and Sa'ar 4-class missile boats (using indigenously-developed Gabriel missiles), and Syrian Komar- and Osa-class missile boats during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. The first of these engagements became known as the Battle of Latakia. During this and later battles, some fifty Gabriels and a similar number of Styx missiles were fired; seven Syrian ships were sunk, with zero Israeli losses.

At the Battle of Bubiyan in 1991 Iraqi missile boats were destroyed by British air-to-surface missiles.

Later designs, such as the German Gepard class and Finnish Hamina class are equipped with surface-to-air missiles and countermeasures.

The size of missile boats has increased, with some designs now at corvette size, 800 tonnes including a helicopter, giving them extended modes of operation. In April 1996 during Israel's Operation Grapes of Wrath, IDF naval forces used Sa'ar 4 and Sa'ar 4.5 boats to shell the Lebanese coast with 76 mm fire, in conjunction with artillery and air attacks.

Current situation

Iran and North Korea have some of the largest numbers of missile boats in operation today. North Korea alone operates more than 300,[5] while Iran has been developing "swarm boats" to be used as harassing vessels in the heavily contested littoral waters of the Persian Gulf. To counter the threat, the US Navy has been developing an ASUW Littoral Defensive Anti-Surface Warfare doctrine, along with vessels such as the littoral combat ship.

The People's Liberation Army Navy of China also has a large fleet of missile craft, which include Type 22 missile boats, Type 037IG Houxin-class missile boats and Type 037II Houjian-class missile boats, with a total of 109 units.

See also


  1. ^ a b Pike, John. "K83 Vidyut (Sov Osa-I) / K90 Viyut (Sov Osa-II)". www.globalsecurity.org.
  2. ^ Pike, John. "Eilat Destroyer". globalsecurity.org.
  3. ^ Ali, Tariq (1983). Can Pakistan Survive? The Death of a State. Penguin Books. p. 95. ISBN 0-14-02-2401-7. In a two-week war, Pakistan lost half its navy.
  4. ^ Nanda, S. M. (2004). The Man Who Bombed Karachi: A Memoir. Noida, India: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-8172235628.
  5. ^ Hy-Sang Lee (2001). North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress. Praeger. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-275-96917-2.

External links

Media related to Missile boats at Wikimedia Commons

Ballistic missile submarine

A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine capable of deploying submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with nuclear warheads. The United States Navy's hull classification symbols for ballistic missile submarines are SSB and SSBN – the SS denotes submarine (or submersible ship), the B denotes ballistic missile, and the N denotes that the submarine is nuclear powered. These submarines became a major weapon system in the Cold War because of their nuclear deterrence capability. They can fire missiles thousands of kilometers from their targets, and acoustic quieting makes them difficult to detect (see acoustic signature), thus making them a survivable deterrent in the event of a first strike and a key element of the mutual assured destruction policy of nuclear deterrence. Their deployment has been dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union / Russia, with smaller numbers in service with France, the United Kingdom, China, and India.

C 14-class missile boat

The C 14 class missile boat is a light missile boat of catamaran designed for use in the Middle East, also known as the China Cat class. The small size of the ship, along with some stealth features provide it with good protection against enemy detection, and it can be armed with a variety of light anti-ship missiles. In addition to the low radar cross section, the boat is also extremely fast with an aluminum monohull with stepped planning.

The catamaran design also provides better seaworthiness in comparison to the other boats of similar displacement with a conventional hull. The missile boats have been exported to Iran, where since 2000 it has been in service with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Navy Corps. In Chinese service it primarily serves as a trial boat, including testing various light anti-ship missiles and other weaponry for catamarans.

Chamak-class missile boat

The Chamak-class missile boats (NATO code Osa II class) of the Indian Navy were an Indian variant of the Soviet Project 205 MoskitThe Osa-II Class missile boats formed the 25th Missile Vessel (K25) Squadron, also known as the Killers, based at Vizag. Osa is the Russian word for Wasp.All eight missile boats have been decommissioned from service.

Fast attack craft

A fast attack craft (FAC) is a small, fast, agile and offensive warship armed with anti-ship missiles, gun or torpedoes. FACs are usually operated in close proximity to land as they lack both the seakeeping and all-round defensive capabilities to survive in blue water. The size of the vessel also limits the fuel, stores and water supplies. In size they are usually between 50–800 tonnes and can reach speeds of 25–50 knots.A fast attack craft's main advantage over other warship types is its affordability. Many FACs can be deployed at a relatively low cost, allowing a navy which is at a disadvantage to effectively defend itself against a larger adversary. A small boat, when equipped with the same weapons as its larger counterpart, can pose a serious threat to even the largest of capital ships. Their major disadvantages are poor seagoing qualities, cramped quarters and poor ability to defend themselves against aerial threat.

Hamina-class missile boat

The Hamina-class missile boat is a class of fast attack craft of the Finnish Navy. They are classified as "missile fast attack craft" or ohjusvene, literally "missile boat" in Finnish.

Komar-class missile boat

The Soviet Project 183R class, more commonly known as Komar (NATO reporting name, meaning mosquito), is a class of missile boats, the first of its kind, built in the 1950s and 1960s. Notably, they were the first to sink another ship with anti-ship missiles in 1967.

Matka-class missile boat

The Matka class is the NATO reporting name for a group of hydrofoil missile boats built for the Soviet Navy (Baltic Fleet and Black Sea Fleet). The Soviet designation is Project 206MR Vikhr. Following the 1997 Black Sea Fleet partition treaty all Black Sea Fleet Matka class boats were passed to the Ukrainian Navy.

Osa-class missile boat

The Project 205 Moskit (mosquito) more commonly known by their NATO reporting name Osa, are a class of missile boats developed for the Soviet Navy in the late 1950s. Until 1962 this was classified as a large torpedo boat.

The Osa class is probably the most numerous class of missile boats ever built, with over 400 vessels constructed between 1960–1973 for both the Soviet Navy and for export to allied countries. "Osa" means "wasp" in Russian, but it is not an official name. The boats were designated as "large missile cutters" in the Soviet Navy.

Rauma-class missile boat

The Rauma-class missile boats (Finnish: Rauma-luokan ohjusvene) are a class of missile boat in use by the Finnish Navy.

It is the predecessor of the Hamina-class missile boats. The ships were constructed at the Hollming yards and Finnyards in Rauma, Finland. All the ships have their home port in Pansio.

All four vessels underwent a 70 million EUR modernization program at the Western Shipyard in Teijo. The program includes the installation of a new version of the 9LV225 control and command system made by SAAB (the Mk.3 has been replaced by a Mk.4), the replacement of the Mistral SAM missiles with a MASS decoy system. The MASS system also replaces the Philax chaff and IR flares, the Thales Matilda radar warning system, and the six 103 mm rails for rocket illuminants, that were previously fitted. The sonar and ASW systems are being completely renewed (the previous Simrad ST 240 has been replaced by a ST2400). The modernization programme began late in 2010 with all four vessels expected to be ready by autumn 2013. The first vessel, Naantali, was handed over to the Finnish Navy in May 2013. The modernization will allow the vessels to be operational into the 2020s.The vessel were previously armed with a sextuple Mistral SAM launcher, which could be replaced by a Sako twin-barrel 23 mm/87 anti-aircraft cannon (a modified version of the ZU-23-2). Additionally the vessel had a portable Mistral SAM launcher pad that could be mounted on the ship's deck, or on land, in order to protect the moored vessel.

On 18 February 2015, the Finnish media reported that the Rauma class has been banned from use after fatigue damage was discovered in the vessels' hull.

Sa'ar 4-class missile boat

The Sa'ar 4 or Reshef-class missile boats were a series of missile boats built based on Israeli Navy designs grounded in accumulated experience derived in the operation of "Cherbourg" (Sa'ar 1, Sa'ar 2, and Sa'ar 3) classes. Thirteen were built at the Israel Shipyards, ten for the Israeli Navy and three for the South African Navy. Another six were built for the South African Navy in South Africa with Israeli assistance.

Sa'ar 4 boats' first battle engagements occurred in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War when two Sa'ar 4 boats, INS Reshef and INS Keshet, engaged Egyptian and Syrian ships and coastal targets. Israel had sold most of its Sa'ar 4 boats to other navies, but INS Nitzachon and INS Atzmaut remained in active Israeli Navy service until 2014.

Sa'ar 4.5-class missile boat

The Sa'ar 4.5-class missile boats (Hebrew: סער 4.5‎) is a class of Israeli Sea Corps missile boats designed and built by Israel Shipyards Ltd. as an improved and stretched Sa'ar 4-class missile boat. There are two different subclasses that are both named Sa'ar 4.5. The first subclass was initially called Chochit (Hebrew: חוחית‎), but renamed to Aliya (Hebrew: עליה‎). Two Aliya-subclass boats are in service with the Mexican Navy. The second subclass was initially called Nirit (Hebrew: נירית‎) but renamed to Hetz (Hebrew: חץ‎).

Sa'ar 5-class corvette

Sa'ar 5 (Hebrew: סער 5‎) is a class of Israeli Navy small corvettes. They were Israeli designed using lessons learned from the Sa'ar 4.5-class missile boats. Three Sa'ar 5 ships were built by Huntington Ingalls Industries (formerly Litton-Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation of Pascagoula, Mississippi) for the Israeli Navy, based on Israeli designs.

They are the largest surface warships in Israel's naval fleet. Although classified as small "corvettes" due to their small size and crew of only 71, their weaponry and speed are almost comparable to that of a frigate. They are equipped with sonar, torpedoes, missile launchers, electronic warfare capabilities and decoys, a gun mount, and a helipad and helicopter hangar.The first of class, INS Eilat, was launched in February 1993, followed by INS Lahav in August 1993 and INS Hanit in March 1994.

"סער" is Hebrew for "storm".

Sarancha-class missile boat

The Sarancha class is the NATO reporting name for a hydrofoil missile boat built for the Soviet Navy. The Soviet designation was Project 1240 Uragan (Серия 1240 Ураган- Hurricane).

Skjold-class corvette

Skjold-class corvettes (skjold means "shield" in Norwegian) are a class of six large, superfast, stealth missile corvettes in service with the Royal Norwegian Navy. The boats were formerly classed as MTBs (motor torpedo boats) but, from 2009, the Royal Norwegian Navy has described them as corvettes (korvett) because their seaworthiness is seen as comparable to corvettes, and because they do not carry torpedoes. They were built at the Umoe Mandal yard. With a maximum speed of 60 knots (110 km/h), the Skjold-class corvettes were the fastest combat ships afloat at the time of their introduction.

Type 021-class missile boat

China first received a single unit of Soviet Osa-class missile boat in January 1965, and four more in 1966 through 1967 and the last two in 1968. The Hudong Shipyard built the Chinese version as Type 021-class missile boat at a rate of ten boats per year with several different versions. The majority of this class is being transferred to reserve status. Several dozen remain active and these active units are being rearmed with C-101 supersonic anti-ship missiles. These boats are effectively used in swarm missile attacks.

Type 024 missile boat

The Type 024 missile boat is a Chinese built small missile boat armed with two anti-ship missiles and there were two versions developed. Although most have been placed in reserve, dozens remain in active service. Those in active service have been rearmed with C-101 supersonic anti-ship missiles.

Type 037 corvette

The Type 037 corvette is a series 400–500 ton corvette type classes in service with the People's Liberation Army Navy. Unlike western navies, the People's Liberation Army Navy does not have dedicated patrol boats in its inventory. Instead, a large variety of corvette type classes, in the form of missile boats and submarine chasers fulfill the tasks of patrolling China's territorial waters. The Egyptian Navy operates eight vessels.

Type 22 missile boat

The Type 22 (NATO designation: Houbei class) missile boat is a ship class in the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy. The first boat was launched in April 2004 by the Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard at Shanghai. The boats incorporate stealth features and are based on Australian-designed wave-piercing catamaran hulls that are more stable than other fast missile craft in high sea conditions. Approximately 83 of these missile boats are currently in service with three flotillas having been produced over a span of seven years.

Vidyut-class missile boat

The Vidyut-class missile boats (Sanskrit; Devanagari: विद्युत्, lightning) of the Indian Navy were an Indian variant of the Soviet Osa I class.These vessels formed the 25th "Killer" Missile Boat Squadron, which sunk 2 destroyers, a minesweeper and various other vessels of the Pakistan Navy during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

Aircraft carriers
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