Exocet was sold to among others both Iran and Iraq, as well as to the Government of Argentina and to other western nations including Great Britain. The Aerospatiale AM 39 Exocet is a medium range anti ship missile originally built for helicopter launch in 1975.The weapon has a one second delay in order to avoid damage to the launching platform .A latter version was introduced designed to be launched from fixed wing aircraft. Aircraft that carry or did carry the weapon include: the Dassault Breguet Mirage ground attack fighter, the Dassault Breguet Atlantic II maritime patrol aircraft, and the Dassault Breguet Super Entendard ship board fighter bomber.
The Exocet unlike the Harpoon ,which is turbo jet powered, is powered by a solid fuel booster and terminal phase engine .Also unlike the Harpoon it has a sophisticated terminal phase guidance system which activates within 10,000metres of its target, the Harpoon in bearing only mode activating its search radar while still 58 miles out from the target. A pulsing radar can be detected by the target and thus allow it to initiate electronic counter measures(ECM).The Harpoon when given the correct range is able to activates its search radar at a closer range ,although in no way comparable with to the Exocetís envelope of silence. However, there is a price to pay for sophisticated electronics, salt water a constant threat when the weapon is on the final sea skimming approach, the Harpoons lack of electronic sophistication giving it a greater reliability.
The Exocet cruises at low altitude on inertial navigation in the direction of the target at cruise altitude. At the end of the cruse phase it descends to a lower altitude covering the terminal approach at an altitude determined by sea condition. The very short search phase following the activation of the seeker head can take place either at the end of the cruise phase or during one of the other approach phases. Should the missile over fly the smaller ships in rough sea condition the proximity fuse detonates the explosive charge just above the deck. By contrast the Harpoon, when it misses its target, goes into a pre programmed search mode while still within 58 miles of its target .Block I missiles go into a steep climb and then a dive on to the upper deck of the target. The block II long range missiles with an increased range of 120 miles, plus variable flight profiles, an increased avoidance of ECM capability, also utilizes the sea skimming mode. The AGM 84D Harpoon is a longer range version incorporating Block II range capabilities, improved ECM avoidance, and the ability to perform the final approach in a dog leg fashion. In 1988 the SLAM (stand off land attack missile) started its trials .The weapon is a derivative of the Harpoon combining the Harpoons airframe, power plant and warhead, the imaging terminal phase infra guidance of the AGM Maverick ,the data link of the AGM Walleye glide bomb ,and a global positioning receiver.
Excocet and Harpoon are both anti ship missiles designed to be air or ship launched .Exocet has a solid fuel engine and booster, the other a turbo jet, and on some models, a solid fuel booster. Harpoon sacrifices performance for reliability .Exocet has a sophisticated guidance system needing protection form the corrosive influence of salt water and has been sold to regimes sometimes unfriendly to the democracies. Harpoon is sold subject to US law regarding potential enemies of the US or its allies.Exocet combined with the ship based Super Entendard created an unbeatable weapons system during the Falkland Island conflict ,the Royal Air Force having no aircraft at that time with look down radar ,the military funding cut backs of the Labour government of the day precluding the introduction of the BAE Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft .Britainís request to the US for aircraft with look down capability was refused thus leaving Royal Navy ships exposed to sea skimming Exocets, the Monroe doctrine, forbidding the use of force in the Americas by an out side power ,in effect giving the Argentine Navy free reign to attack British shipping with no fear of reprisal.