Anti-ship missiles are guided missiles that are designed for use against ships and large boats. Most anti-ship missiles are of the sea-skimming type, many use a combination of inertial guidance and radar homing. A good number of other anti-ship missiles use infrared homing to follow the heat that is emitted by a ship; it is also possible for anti-ship missiles to be guided by radio command all the way.
The first anti-ship missiles, which were developed and built by Nazi Germany, used radio command guidance, these saw some success in the Mediterranean Theater in 1943 - 44, sinking or heavily damaging at least 31 ships with the Henschel Hs 293 and more than seven with the Fritz X, such as the Italian battleship Roma or the cruiser USS Savannah. A variant of the HS 293 had a TV transmitter on board. The bomber carrying it could then fly outside the range of naval AA guns and use TV guidance to lead the missile to its target by radio control.
Many anti-ship missiles can be launched from a variety of weapons systems including surface warships (they can then be referred to as ship-to-ship missiles), submarines, bombers, fighter planes, patrol planes, helicopters, shore batteries, land vehicles, and conceivably, even by infantrymen firing shoulder-launched missiles.
A typical acronym for the phrase "anti-ship missile" is ASM, but AShM can also be used to avoid confusion with air-to-surface missiles and anti-submarine missiles.
Anti-ship missiles were among the first instances of short-range guided missiles during World War II in 1943 - 44. The German Luftwaffe used the Hs 293, the Fritz X, and others, all launched from its bombers, to deadly effect against some Allied ships in the Mediterranean Sea, seriously damaging ships such as the United States Navy light cruiser USS Phoenix (CL-46) off Salerno, Italy. These all used radio command-guidance from the bombardiers of the warplanes that launched them. Some of these hit and either sank or damaged a number of ships, including warships offshore of amphibious landings on western Italy. These radio-controlled missiles were used successfully until the Allied navies developed missile countermeasures - principally radio jamming. The Allies also developed some of their own similar radio-guided AShMs, such as the Tiny Tim and the SWOD-9 Bat, but these saw little to no use in combat.
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