Otomat Anti-Ship Missile

Otomat Anti-Ship Missile

The Otomat is an anti-ship and coastal defence missile developed by the Italian company Oto Melara jointly with Matra and now made by MBDA. The name comes, for the first versions, from the name of the two builders (OTO Melara MATra) and, for the later versions, Teseo, from the Italian word for Theseus. The MILAS variant is an anti-submarine missile. In its latest version Mk/2E purchased by the Italian Navy is a medium range anti-ship missile and a ground attack missile.


The Otomat missile program started in 1967, the same year in which the Israeli destroyer Eilat was sunk by three Soviet-made P-15 Termit anti-ship missiles. This event raised awareness about the effectiveness of such weapons and prompted the development of similar systems in Western countries, such as the Harpoon in the United States. However, it is unknown whether the Otomat program started before or after the Eilat event.

The Otomat program was undertaken by the Italian Oto Melara corporation in cooperation with the French Matra Corporation. The aim was to develop an anti-ship missile powered by a turbofan which would allow more range and a heavier warhead than rocket-powered missiles then being developed in Europe such as the French Exocet and the German Kormoran. Trials started in 1971 and development of the Mk1 version of the Otomat officially ended in 1974.

However, at that time, the French Navy chose the wholly French Exocet over the Franco-Italian Otomat as its standard anti-ship missile. Thus, the Italian Navy remained as the only launch customer for the missile; it entered service in January 1976, before the commissioning of the warship intended to carry it, the Lupo-class frigate. These early Otomat missiles lacked a data link for over-the-horizon targeting, which limited its effective range to 60 kilometres (37 mi) a similar figure to the Exocet. To solve this problem, development of an Mk2 version started in May 1973, with a first test launch in January 1974, development completed in 1976, and the first over-the-horizon launch in 1978. By the end of 1976 OTO Melara had reported that 210 Otomats had been sold: Italy 48, Peru 40, Venezuela 12, and Libya 110. Also at this time there were negotiations under way for the sale of 296 more missiles to various nations (i.e. Italy 48, Egypt 30, Venezuela 48, Libya 120, Indonesia 50).

An Mk2 Block II version was introduced in the 1980s, it featured folding wings so that the missile could now fit in a smaller launch boxes. This reduction in size allowed a doubling in the number of missiles carried, usually from four to eight. Even so, Otomat Mk2 Block II remained bulkier than contemporary versions of Harpoon and Exocet missiles due to its greater diameter and its boosters being fitted to its flanks instead of in the rear.


The Otomat is a long-range anti-ship missile capable of reaching around 180 kilometres (110 mi) at an average speed of 1,000–1,100 kilometres per hour (620–680 mph). It is stored and launched in a fiberglass box which weighs 1,610 kilograms (3,550 lb) fully loaded. This container has a rectangular shape to accommodate the fixed wings of the missile and an inclination of 15 degrees. At launch, the boosters propel the missile up to a height of 200 metres (660 ft) before the main engine starts and a descent to 20 m (66 ft) is made. Otomat Mk2 missiles have a data-link for mid-course updates. They are designed to strike their targets in a 180 m (590 ft) dive or in a sea-skimming mode at an altitude of 2 m (6 ft 7 in) with a 210 kg (460 lb) warhead capable piercing up to 80 millimetres (3.1 in) of steel. The warhead is designed to explode inside the ship with the force of the explosion directed to the bottom of the target ship.

Technical data are: 4.46 m (14.6 ft) length, 40 centimetres (16 in) diameter, 1.35 wingspan, 780 kilograms (1,720 lb) launch weight.

The mid-fuselage fuel tank has a capacity of 90 litres (20 imp gal; 24 US gal), behind the fuel tank is the TR-281 ARBIZON III engine, a simple turbo-jet. The twin ROXEL boosters weigh 75 kilograms (165 lb) each, and provide an acceleration of 6 g for four seconds.

The Turboméca TR.281 Arbizon III is a jet engine of 400 kilograms per tonne (900 lb/long ton), around 50% more powerful than the Harpoon’s engine, the Willis turbojet that has 272 kg/t (610 lb/long ton). This latter engine is apparently used also on the bigger BGM-109 so this has lower speed (around 800 km/h (500 mph) compared to the aforementioned 1,000). Air intakes are an unusual number, four, all placed forward the wings, at mid-fuselage (as example Harpoon and Tomahawk have only one), contributing to the characteristic, complex shape of this missile.

Power available has made possible to fit in the bulky fuselage a high fuel reserve, heavy warhead and a data-link (Mk 2 model) to receive updates, at least once when in flight to the target.

The flight controls are four foldable steerable main wings, and four tail control winglets. Structure is made of light alloys, mainly aluminium. The Radar active seeker has a range, in the Italian version, of around 8 km (5.0 mi) with a medium-sized target, but usually it is activated at a shorter distance (see typical mission).

The warhead is in the front, behind the radar section and in front of the radio-altimeter and some other electronic systems. The HE warhead is of the semi-armor-piercing type and has a 65 kg (143 lb) Hertol type filler (for comparison, Kormoran missiles have 165 kg (364 lb) warheads, 56 kg (123 lb) is the HE main charge, plus 16 radial small charges to explode well inside the ship after the main explosion, and the armor-piercing capability is around 7–8 cm (2.8–3.1 in)).

In a typical layout, there are 4–8 fiberglass boxes, with the missile inside, held by a rail in the roof. The overall weight is 1,610 kg (3,550 lb).

Data-links are included in the TESEO or ERATO control systems. ERATO has computerized consoles CLIO, while TESEO has MM/OJ-791 consoles, weighing 570 kg (1,260 lb) with 4 kilowatts (5.4 hp) electric power requirement. The Data-link is called the PRT400 system, and the components are the PTR402 designation for missile (as receiver), PRT401 designation for the transmitter (shipborn) or PTR403 (carried by helicopter). Other systems that can be fitted include the PRT404 system for light ships and the PRT405 system for helicopters.

Overall strengths of this missile are long range, speed, sea-skimming capabilities and a powerful warhead.

Weakness are the need for a helicopter for mid-course guidance and a quite difficult uplink in the TESEO system (at least in the original model), big dimensions (affecting radar cross section RCS and IR signature), the lack of complex maneuvres (synchronization of attacks, re-engagement capabilities, ECCM capability not up to current standards and never publicized), and the availability of surface versions only: no submarine and aircraft versions were developed.

This caused problems to the services that acquired these anti-ship missiles: Italian forces use Otomat (ships), Marte (helicopters), Kormoran (Tornados), Harpoon (not confirmed for submarines). Given the necessity to buy other totally different missile systems, many customers simply bought a ‘family of missile systems’ as in the Harpoon series and the Exocet family with obvious operative and economic advantages.


There are significant differences between Otomat versions. The only component that has remained the same is the engine. In the mid-1990s production exceeded 900 missiles (compared to 3,000 Exocets and 6,000 Harpoon).

This is the complete family, in chronological order:

  • Otomat Mk 1: first model, without data link, 60 km practical range, service from 1976
  • Otomat Mk 2 Block I: first model with data-link, 180 km range, first over-the-horizon launch in 1978
  • Otomat Mk 2 Block II: it had foldable wings, allowing the use of smaller boxes, and so using two missiles instead of one. It started to appear in the 1980s, though it took considerable time to replace the first model.
  • Otomat Mk 2 Block III: new INS navigation system, ‘insensible’ warhead, new, safer solid propellant for boosters, improved data link to allow TESEO to guide missiles also from the ship directly. It is not known when it entered service.
  • Otomat Mk 3/NGASM/ULISSE: new version with longer range, stealth design (both shape and materials), IRST sensor coupled with the radar and GPS, land attack capabilities. Development started at the beginning of ’90s. The US Navy was interested but didn’t adopt the system and the Italian Navy abandoned the project, the cost being too high for the Italian navy alone.
  • MILAS: ASW version with a light torpedo in the nose. Weights 800 kg (including torpedo), 6-meter length, 0.46-meter diameter, and 5 km to 35+ km effective range, compatible with Otomat standard systems. The MILAS program started in the 1980s, and was finally adopted only by Italian Navy, the French Navy withdrawing from the program due to cost.
  • Otomat Mk 2 Block IV: also called Teseo Mk2/A (for the Italian Navy, with a new electronic set, partially derived from Marte Mk 2/S missile program. The TG-2 (data-link for helicopters) is abolished, because the ship is capable to guide the missile directly (as happened with ERATO) with information given by external platform with OTH engagements. The missile is capable of: re-attack, 3-D mission planning, coordinate attacks, capability to operate in littoral theaters, and attack with terminal evasive maneuvers. GPS is added and so the weapon can attack also land targets. In May 2006, Teseo MK2/A was successfully test-fired for the first time. This variant will in due course be deployed on the Italian variant of the Franco-Italian FREMM frigate. Teseo MK2/A has entered service with the Italian Navy in 2007. Available on the export market and has been purchased by export customers as of 2008.[20]
  • Otomat Mk 2 E: the Italian Navy has acquired the new MBDA heavy-duty missile TESEO MK / 2E (TESEO “EVO”) with also a strategic land attack capability for the attack of ground targets (the latter capacity, currently only possessed by the Air Force Military with the STORM SHADOW missile). In this regard it is considering the possibility of equipping the missile with a new terminal “head” with dual RF seeker (Radio Frequency) and, presumably, given the need to attack pure ground targets, IIR (IR imaging). Compared to the predecessor OTOMAT / TESEO, the TESEO “EVO” has a double range, more than 360 km.


Mass 770 kg (1,698 lb) with booster
Length 4.46 m (14.6 ft)
Diameter 400 mm (15.7 in)
Warhead 210 kg (463 lb)
Impact and proximity

Engine Turbojet engine
220 km (120 nmi) (Otomat Mk 2 Block IV)
Maximum speed 310 m/s (690 mph; 1,100 km/h; Mach 0.91)
Inertial guidance, GPS and active radar homing


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