Sea Killer / Marte

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Sea Killer is an Italian anti-ship missile family. The latest development of the system is known as Marte. Marte is a sea skimming, subsonic, anti-ship missile, it carries a 70 kilograms (150 lb) semi-armour piercing warhead. It has been built in several versions, with differing guidance systems, and is suitable for launching from ships or aircraft.

Sea Killer / Marte
Hangar of the Carabiniere (F593), Fremantle, 2017 (03).jpg
A Marte ER on display aboard an Italian FREMM multipurpose frigate
TypeAnti-ship missile
Place of originItaly
Service history
Used byItaly
United Arab Emirates
Production history
ManufacturerMBDA / (historic: Sistel SpA)
Mass300 kg (660 lb)[1]
  • Marte ER: 340 kg (750 lb)[2]
  • Marte MK2/S, Marte MK2/N: 310 kg (680 lb)[3][4]
Length4.7 m (15 ft 5 in)[1]
  • Marte ER: 3.6 m (11 ft 10 in)[5]
  • Marte MK2/S, Marte MK2/N: 3.85 m (12 ft 8 in)[3][4]
Diameter0.206 m (8.1 in) (body)[1]
  • Marte ER, Marte MK2/S, Marte MK2/N: 0.316 m (12.4 in) (max body diameter)[5][3][4]
Warhead70 kg (150 lb) Semi-armour piercing HE
Impact and proximity fuze

EngineSolid fuel rocket booster and sustainer
  • Marte-ER: turbojet Williams WJ-24-8G WR
Wingspan0.999 m (3 ft 3.3 in)[1]
  • Marte ER: over 100 km (62 mi)[5]
  • Marte MK2/S, Marte MK2/N: 30 km (19 mi)[3][4]
  • Sea Killer Mark 1: 10 km (6.2 mi)
  • Sea Killer Mark 2: over 25 km (16 mi)
Flight altitudeSea skimming
Maximum speed Mach 0,8-0,9
Naval ships, aircraft, helicopters, coastal installations

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 designEdit

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.[6][7]

Testing of Nettuno began in 1966,[8] 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.[9] Testing of Vulcano began in 1969.[1]

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

In 1967, the Italian company Sistel (Sistemi Elettronici) 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.[10] Nettuno and Vulcano were renamed Sea Killer Mark 1 and 2 respectively for export, and these names gradually replaced the older names.[11]

Sea Killer Mark 2 was purchased by Iran to arm its Saam class of four frigates, each of which was fitted with a single five-round launcher.[12] No other sales of the ship-based version were made,[13] but development of Sea Killer Mark 2 into an all-weather anti-ship missile to equip the Italian Navy's helicopters began in 1967,[14] with the helicopter-based weapon system being named Marte.[15]

Prototype in 1971

Marte entered service with the Italian Navy in 1977, with its Sikorsky SH-3 Sea Kings being fitted with two Sea Killer Mark 2 missiles.[16] 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.[16][17] Testing of Marte 2 started in 1984,[18] and the missile entered service with the Italian Navy in 1987.[16]

The Marte ER, an improvement on the missile family, replaced the rocket motor with Williams WJ-24-8G 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 like Eurofighter Typhoon can carry six Marte-ERPs (or four with fuel tanks) compared to two or three larger missiles.[19][20][21][22]

Operational historyEdit

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.[13][16]


Sea Killer Mark 1
Short-range beam riding ship-launched anti-ship missile. 10 km range, 35 kilograms (77 lb) warhead. Also designated Nettuno.[6][8]
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][6]
Marte Mark 1
Helicopter launched beam riding anti-ship missile, based on Sea Killer Mark 2.[16]
Marte Mark 2
Improved version of Marte, with active radar homing seeker in bulged nose.[16]
  • Marte MK2/S
"Short" version of Marte 2 enabling simpler on-board integration onto helicopters.[3][20]
  • Marte MK2/A
Modified version of Marte 2 for launch from fixed wing aircraft, with booster rocket omitted.[16]
  • Marte MK2/N
Version of Marte 2 as a surface-to-surface naval missile system for littoral operations.[4][20]
Marte ER
Marte ER is a sea-skimming, high subsonic anti-ship and land attack missile.[2] Turbojet engine Williams WR WJ-24-8G extends range to over 100 km, total weight of 340 kilograms,[2] first tested in 9 November 2018.[19][23] The missile is fire-and-forget capable and designed to operates in all weather conditions. The missile is the main anti-ship platform for Eurofighter Typhoon.[5]
Mobile Costal Defence System (MCDS)
Land based system for costal defence. The system has the capability to launch both Marte MK2/N and / or Marte ER missile.[24] The system needs midcourse guidance to use the maximum range of Marte ER.


  • 160 Sea Killer/Marte Mk 2 Vulcano, delivered between 1971-1972 for Saam frigates[16][25]
  • Sea Killer Mk 1 Nettuno (evaluation).[11]
  • 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[16]
  • 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[26]
  • (50) Marte ER in 2018 deal for NH-90 NFH helicopters
  • Marte Mk2/N for use on 3 OPV58S OPV[27]
  • (25) Sea Killer/Marte Mk2/N at least 25 delivered for Dearsan 33m FAC[28][29]
  United Arab Emirates
  • 100 Marte Mk2/N, February 2009 order, delivered in 2013 for 12 Ghannatha class Fast Patrol Boats
  • (50) Marte Mk2/N order in February 2017, for 93,6 million dollars, delivered in 2018/2019 for 12 Ghannatha class Fast Patrol Boats[29]
  • 100 Sea Killer/Marte Mk1 delivered between 1980-1982 for AB-212ASW helicopters[16]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c d e f Pretty 1977, p. 62.
  2. ^ a b c "MARTE ER-Datasheet". MBDS Systems. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "MARTE MK2/S". MBDS Systems. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "MARTE MK2/N". MBDS Systems. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e "MARTE ER". MBDS Systems. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Pretty and Archer 1972, pp. 42–43.
  7. ^ Pretty 1977, pp. 61–62.
  8. ^ a b Pretty 1977, p. 61.
  9. ^ Moore 1979, p. 279.
  10. ^ Flight International 25 January 1973, p. 135.
  11. ^ a b Pretty and Archer 1972, p. 42.
  12. ^ Moore 1979, p. 155.
  13. ^ a b "Sea Killer/Marte (Italy), Surface-to-surface missiles". 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  14. ^ Gunston 1983, p. 110–111.
  15. ^ Pretty 1977, pp. 141–142.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Freidman 1997, p. 231.
  17. ^ Flight International 1 October 1988.
  18. ^ "Marte 2 hits target". Flight International 7 April 1984, p. 942.
  19. ^ a b Wall, Robert (14 November 2011). "Marte-ER Integration On Typhoons Eyed For India". Aviation Week.
  20. ^ a b c NHIndustries and MBDA started integration of MARTE ER missile on NH90 maritime helicopter -, 18 July 2014
  21. ^ Eurofighter Typhoon to Get MBDA Marte-ER Anti-Ship Missile Capability -, 9 November 2015
  22. ^ Dubai: Eurofighter tests six appeal with Marte ER missile fit -, 9 November 2015
  23. ^ "Premier tir du Marte ER de MBDA". Air&Cosmos. 15 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  24. ^ "MCDS: MOBILE COASTAL DEFENCE SYSTEM". MBDS Systems. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Trade Registers". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  26. ^ "MBDA signs a MoU to supply coastal missile systems to Qatar - MBDA". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  27. ^
  28. ^ "L'export armato italiano ai regimi dell'ex URSS Intervista a Giorgio Beretta". Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  29. ^ 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.


External linksEdit

  Media related to Sea Killer at Wikimedia Commons