A missile boat or missile cutter is a small warship armed with anti-ship missiles. Being a small craft, missile boats are popular with nations interested in forming an inexpensive navy. They are similar in idea to the torpedo boats of the World War II; in fact, the first missile boats were modified torpedo boats replacing two or more torpedo tubes with missile tubes. The doctrine behind the use of missile boats is based on the principle of mobility over defence. The advent of proper missile and electronic counter measure technologies gave birth to the idea that, because a missile is far more accurate than a shell and can penetrate even the most heavily armored ship hulls, warships should now be designed to outmaneuver their enemies and get to a better position first.
Moreover, increasing the potency of shells requires employing larger projectiles, which necessitates larger naval guns and consequently, larger platforms to carry these guns. This trend culminated in the giant battleships of WWII. The ability to deploy anti-ship missiles on small, maneuverable platforms seriously negates the advantages that were provided by larger ships in the era before the advent of guided missiles. A small missile boat, when equipped with sophisticated guided anti-ship missiles can pose a serious threat to even the largest of capital ships, and do so at much greater ranges than is possible with torpedoes.
Missile boats were invented and first manufactured in the Soviet Union.
The first combat use of missile boats was by the Egyptian Soviet-built Komar class craft fire of four Styx missiles on the Israeli destroyer Eilat on October 20, 1967, shortly after the Six Day War, causing the latter's sinking with 47 dead.
The world's first naval missile battles between warships occurred between Israel Navy Sa'ar 3-class missile boats and Sa'ar 4-class missile boats (using indigenously-developed Gabriel missiles), and Syrian Osa class missile boats and Komar class missile boats during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. The first of these engagements became known as the Battle of Latakia. In these battles, some fifty Gabriels and a similar number of Styx missiles were fired, and seven Syrian craft were sunk.
The 25th Missile Boat Squadron, consisting of vessels from the Vidyut class, played a crucial role in the Indian attacks on Karachi in December 1971. The two key operations in which these vessels played an active role, were Operation Trident and Operation Python.The attacks destroyed 2/3rd of Pakistani Navy clearing way for victory of Indian Armed forces in Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
- List of missile boat classes
- Fast attack craft
- Ballistic missile submarine (sometimes called a "missile boat")
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