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Masurca (Marine Supersonique Ruelle Contre Avions)

Ships of the French Navy were armed with the medium-range Masurca [not Masurka] antiaircraft missile complex. The complex's two-stage missile is outwardly similar to American missiles (to the Terrier-2 antiaircraft guided missile). Two variants were deployed — with television and radar semi-active guidance. The equipment consists of a twin launcher and two radars — detection and target tracking, which ensures simultaneous guidance and launching of missiles at an interval of 5 seconds, and target destruction at an altitude of two dozen kilometers. The French Masurka MK2 had a range of 45 km and a missile launch weight of 1,850 kg. Medium-range antiaircraft guided missile systems are intended to defend task forces against airplanes and antiship cruise missiles outside the effective zone of air defenses.

From the point of view of the ship which carries it, the primary attributes of a SAM system are the size and number of the missiles, their propellants (which may require special storage), the rate of fire demanded, and the size and weight of the guidance system(s). All add together as ship effectiveness: a ship which carries a high effectiveness SAM system is first of all a SAM ship and second something else, but almost any ship can carry a low effectiveness SAM.

The SAMs are the most effective weapons against anti-ship missiles or aircraft, although guns are used at very short distances. Naval SAMs are generally classified as area defense which protect several ships and point defense that are self- protective only. In fact, the differentiation between area defense and point defense is not as clear as might be supposed. Of course, the former is for long range defense, and the latter is for short range defense, but where the transition occurs is not well defined. In looking at SAM systems, effectiveness is the preferable distinction. Those that have higher effectiveness should have greater capability as they affect the ships which carry them.

In the past, the radar systems were not sufficient to determine accurate target position or characteristics and an additional Target Indication radar was required. but modern radars can comhine hoth tasks. Having identified a target, the information is passed to a tracker radar assigned to it. The Tracker radar antenna is mounted with an antenna which provides the illuminating beam for the missile homing and a small antenna used to communicate with the missile. The area defense missile system must have a long-range surveillance radar which consistently scans the horizon for potential enemy targets. The Suffren class cruisers had a large radome, like a balloon, for their Masurka surface-to-air missiles.

Starting from a wartime modified German Schmetterling, French Marine entered in the missile world with the air-to-ship Maruca. When the latter appeared, jet fighters were breaking the sonic barrier and new supersonic bombers even were being designed. The technology being used thus no longer allowed to keep pace with the evolution of aircraft performances, leading to the study of a new weapon system able to counter the evolving threat, since the German design did not allow supersonic speed. However retaining some of the elements of the Maruca A design, like its guidance system, the new missile was known under the name of Masurca (for Marine Surface Ruelle Contre Avion). Its lifetime spread over more than a half century.

For the French Marine, Masurca was similar to the US Navy’s Terrier-Standard missiles, born out of the Bumblebee project. Developed at the same time, but independently and with different backgrounds, they both reflect their period. Masurca was initiated in 1953 by a request from Direction Centrale des Constructions & Armes Navales (DCCAN), to provide shipboard missile systems for Marine Nationale’s new cruisers.

Three studies were initiated for short, medium and long range missiles, under the names of Mabranca, Masurca and Masalca. All were built and tested but only one reached the series production status. Mabranca was soon stopped, long range Masalca, a sort of French Talos, was abandoned in 1958. poor resistance to interference, high manufacturing and operating costs, large size and weight, and low effectiveness at maximum range are significant shortcomings of this system. This is why such long-range systems have not enjoyed wide application.

Only the medium range Masurca survived. Masurca was developed by the French DCN (Direction des Constructions Navales) ECAN Ruelle in the mid-1960s to equip medium-size warships of the French Navy. While the dimensions are different, the design of the missile was very heavily influenced by the American Tartar missile that the French Navy had purchased in the early 1960s for their Type 47 class destroyers. The launch system also resembles the US GMLS Mk 10 system. Two versions of the Masurca were developed: the Mk 2 Mod 2 using radio-command guidance and the Mk 2 Mod 3 with semi-active radar homing. The fire-control radar, missile homing head and proximity fuze were developed by Thomson-CSF (later Thales). The launch and handling equipment were designed and developed by ECAN Ruelle, and the solid propellants were manufactured by SNPE.

The first Masurca system entered service with the destroyer Suffren in July 1967. It was later fitted to the second `Suffren' class destroyer, Duquesne in 1970. In 1969, the French navy, that had had to give up a third Suffren-type destroyer in order to purchase Crusader fighters in the US, believed that the Colbert still had many years of useful service life left. However, the armament was considered obsolete and the decision was made to rebuild the ship, using the Masurca long-range AA missile system that had been ordered for the helicopter cruiser Jeanne d’Arc but never installed. Each of the three ships carried a total of 48 missiles and was fitted with a three-dimensional surveillance radar, two engagement radars, two independent fire-control systems and a single twin launcher situated on the stern deck.

From 1968 to 2008, in its very last evolution, it was the main anti-aircraft armament of cruiser Colbert and of the two Frégates Lance Engins, Suffren and Duquesne. On 25 June 2007 the last ship fitted with the last evolution of Masurca SAM was downgraded to Complément status, before her final withdrawal with her last missiles in 2008. An exceptional 55-year lifetime, for a missile conceived in the very first years of the fifties, thus ended and became history. The French sea-based SAM, Masurca, was not followed by any significant further development of sea-based air defense weapons until the advent of Aster.

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