Sea Killer

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Sea Killer / Marte
Marte -prototipo missile 1971.jpg
Prototype in 1971
Place of originItaly
Service history
Used byItaly
United Arab Emirates
Production history
ManufacturerMBDA / (historic: Sistel SpA)
Mass300 kg (660 lb)[1]
Length4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)[1]
Diameter0.206 m (8.1 in) (body)[1]
Warhead70 kg (150 lb) Semi-armour piercing HE
Impact and proximity fuze

Enginesolid fuel rocket booster and sustainer
Wingspan0.999 m (3 ft 3.3 in)[1]
25 km (16 mi)[1]
Flight altitudeSea skimming
Beam riding / command guided
Naval ships, aircraft

Sea Killer is an Italian anti-ship missile. It has been built in several versions, with differing guidance systems, and is suitable for launching from ships or aircraft; in the latter form the weapons system is known as Marte. A sea-skimming, solid-propellant missile, it carries a 70 kilograms (150 lb) semi-armour piercing warhead. It was initially developed during the 1960s and has been deployed by at least six countries. It was used during the Iran–Iraq War, with at least six ships being hit.

Development and design[edit]

Contraves Italiana, an Italian subsidiary of the Swiss armaments company Oerlikon Contraves, began development of a short-ranged (10 kilometres (6.2 mi)) ship-based anti-ship missile system, named Nettuno in 1963. Guidance of Nettuno was by beam riding for course control, with altitude controlled automatically by an onboard radar altimeter, allowing the missile to carry out sea-skimming attacks. Command guidance was an alternative guidance method if jamming made the beam-riding method unusable. In 1965, Contraves Italiana began work on an improved missile, Vulcano, which used the same guidance system, but included a two-stage (booster + sustainer) rocket motor to give a longer (25 kilometres (16 mi)) range. Both missiles could be fired from a five-round trainable launcher.[2][3]

Testing of Nettuno began in 1966,[4] with a trial installation being made on the Freccia-class patrol boat Saetta of the Italian navy, with the five-round launcher replacing a Bofors 40 mm gun.[5] Testing of Vulcano began in 1969.[1]

In 1967, the Italian company Sistel (Sistemi Elttronici) was set up as a joint venture by five Italian companies, including Contraves Italiana, and the missile division of Contraves Italina was transferred to Sistel, along with the Nettuno and Vulcano missiles in 1969.[6] Nettuno and Vulcano were renamed Sea Killer Mark 1 and 2 respectively for export, and these names gradually replaced the older names.[7]

The Iranian frigate Sabalan showing the five round launcher for Sea Killer missiles

Sea Killer Mark 2 was purchased by Iran to arm its Saam class of four frigates, each of which was fitted with a single 5-round launcher.[8] No other sales of the ship-based version were made,[9] but development of Sea Killer Mark 2 into an all-weather anti-ship missile to equip the Italian Navy's helicopters began in 1967,[10] with the helicopter-based weapon system being named Marte.[11]

Marte entered service with the Italian Navy in 1977, with its SH-3 Sea Kings being fitted with two Sea Killer Mark 2 missiles.[12] In 1983, a new version, Marte 2, was announced, with the beam-riding guidance replaced by an active radar homing seeker based on that used by the Otomat anti-ship missile.[12][13] Testing of Marte 2 started in 1984,[14] and the missile entered service with the Italian Navy in 1987.[12]

The Marte-ER, an improvement on the missile family, replaced the rocket motor with turbojet propulsion and added a new ISO-caliber cylinder cell, which made it shorter in length but extended its range to over 100 km (62 mi; 54 nmi). Fitting trials of the Marte-ER onto the NH90 helicopter, which can carry two missiles, occurred in June 2014; a larger anti-ship missile like the Exocet was rejected for integration as physically too long and heavy. In November 2015, a Eurofighter Typhoon was fit-tested for a fixed-wing version of the missile called the Marte-ERP, which does not feature folding fins and sheds the booster for a larger 120 kg (265 lb) warhead with penetrating and sector-blast properties; though smaller than other options like the Harpoon and RBS-15, a fighter can carry six Marte-ERPs (or four with fuel tanks) compared to two or three larger missiles.[15][16][17][18]

Operational history[edit]

Iran's Sea Killer Mk 2 saw combat service during the Iran–Iraq War, being used to attack merchant shipping in the Persian Gulf, with at least six ships being hit.[9][12]


Sea Killer Mark 1
Short-range beam riding ship-launched anti-ship missile. 10 km range, 35 kilograms (77 lb) warhead. Also designated Nettuno.[2][4]
Sea Killer Mark 2
Increased range beam-riding ship-launched anti-ship missile with improved two stage rocket. 25+ km range, 70 kilograms (150 lb) warhead. Also designated Vulcano.[1][2]
Marte 1
Helicopter launched beam riding anti-ship missile, based on Sea Killer Mark 2.[12]
Marte 2
Improved version of Marte, with active radar homing seeker in bulged nose.[12]
  • Marte 2S
"Short" version of Marte 2 enabling simpler on-board integration onto helicopters.[16]
  • Marte 2A
Modified version of Marte 2 for launch from fixed wing aircraft, with booster rocket omitted.[12]
  • Marte 2N
Version of Marte 2 as a surface-to-surface naval missile system for littoral operations.[16]
Turbojet engine extends range to over 100 km, weight of 315 kilograms, first tested in November 9, 2018.[15][19]
Proposed Marte-ER for fixed-wing aircraft with a larger warhead in place of the rocket booster.[15]


  • 160 Sea Killer/Marte Mk 2 Vulcano, delivered between 1971-1972 for Saam frigates[12][20]
  • Sea Killer Mk 1 Nettuno (evaluation).[7]
  • 450 Marte Mk 1 delivered since 1977 for use on SH-3D helicopters
  • 180 Marte Mk 2, delivered since 1987 for use on SH-3D helicopters[12]
  • 39 Marte Mk 2/S delivered since 2007 for use on AW-101 & SH-90 helicopters
  • Marte ER, MOU signed 30 March 2016 for coastal defence system[21]
  • (25) Sea Killer/Marte Mk2/N at least 25 delivered[22][23]
 United Arab Emirates
  • 100 Sea Killer/Marte Mk2/N, February 2009 order, delivered in 2013 for 12 Ghannatha class Fast Patrol Boats
  • ? new undefined order in February 2017, for 93,6 million dollars[23]
  • 100 Sea Killer/Marte Mk1 delivered between 1980-1982 for AB-212ASW helicopters[12]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Pretty 1977, p. 62.
  2. ^ a b c Pretty and Archer 1972, pp. 42–43.
  3. ^ Pretty 1977, pp. 61–62.
  4. ^ a b Pretty 1977, p. 61.
  5. ^ Moore 1979, p. 279.
  6. ^ Flight International 25 January 1973, p. 135.
  7. ^ a b Pretty and Archer 1972, p. 42.
  8. ^ Moore 1979, p. 155.
  9. ^ a b "Sea Killer/Marte (Italy), Surface-to-surface missiles". 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  10. ^ Gunston 1983, p. 110–111.
  11. ^ Pretty 1977, pp. 141–142.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Freidman 1997, p. 231.
  13. ^ Flight International 1 October 1988.
  14. ^ "Marte 2 hits target". Flight International 7 April 1984, p. 942.
  15. ^ a b c Wall, Robert (14 November 2011). "Marte-ER Integration On Typhoons Eyed For India". Aviation Week.
  16. ^ a b c NHIndustries and MBDA started integration of MARTE ER missile on NH90 maritime helicopter -, 18 July 2014
  17. ^ Eurofighter Typhoon to Get MBDA Marte-ER Anti-Ship Missile Capability -, 9 November 2015
  18. ^ DUBAI: Eurofighter tests six appeal with Marte ER missile fit -, 9 November 2015
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Trade Registers". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  21. ^ "MBDA signs a MoU to supply coastal missile systems to Qatar - MBDA". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  22. ^ "L'export armato italiano ai regimi dell'ex URSS Intervista a Giorgio Beretta". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  23. ^ a b "IDEX 2017: MBDA receives UAE contract for additional Marte Mk 2/N missiles". IHS Jane’s 360. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2018.