When it comes to missile technology, From Software has developed a twisted knack for finding all sorts of creative ways to screw us over. If you’re dodging the four-pronged assault of the Hydra, then you’re either evading Death-From-Above from a Mortar Rocket, or the slow, impending doom (and mushroom cloud) that follows from touching a Titan.
But while you may hate them, they’re not quite as evil as the other member of AC’s missile family: The Ground Torpedoes. What these missiles lack for explosive payload, they make up for with tenacity, and their habit of homing in on your AC’s lower extremities. Its like the Chihuahua from hell – they’re vicious little buggers that will never stop chasing you down until they’ve sunk their little piranha-teeth into your nether regions.
We could only breathe a sigh of relief when FS toned down their homing capabilities in the later games. It got to the point that all you needed to do to throw them off was make one quick hop. The missiles would follow your movement alright, and end up faceplanting on the ground while you lol’d, and your enemy stood there wondering WTF; For something called torpedoes, it’s rather odd that they don’t burrow too well.
But while we’re all lol’ing at the sad predicament of today’s generation of ground torpedoes, it wasn’t all fun and games for the crew of the HMS Sheffield, and their run-in with the real-life counterpart of our own castration missiles: The Exocet.
Developed by the MBDA company in 1967 and put into production in 1972, the Exocet anti-ship missile was developed as a sea-skimmer – Instead of flying in at a normal trajectory like most other missiles, the Exocet was designed to approach the target just above the water’s surface.
This served two purposes: First, it made the missile harder to track with a ship early warning systems, and hence more difficult to shoot down. Second, flying low enabled the missile to hit close to a ship’s waterline; if the warhead’s detonation didn’t blow the ship to smithereens, then it would still wound it badly enough to either sink or cripple it. In short, the Exocet wasn’t deadly because of its payload, but because it was designed to hit you below the belt.
Getting back to the HMS Sheffield: on May 4, during a patrol to relieve the HMS Coventry during the Falklands War, the Sheffield detected two Exocets launched by carrier-based Super Etendard fighters from the Argentinian Navy.
While only one missile hit, it struck the Sheffield amidship, and tore a four by nine foot hole in the hull nearly eight feet above the waterline. The missile had failed to detonate, but its impact had knocked out the destroyer’s electrical and fire suppression system, while its remaining fuel started a raging fire. Imagine getting kicked in the balls and having your crotch set on fire at the same time, and not being able to do a damn thing about it because of the pain.
So instead of destroying the Sheffield instantly in a catastrophic – and probably slow-mo- orange-white fireworks display that’d make even Michael Bay jizz in his pants, The Exocet had doomed the ship to the cruel irony of a slow, agonizing death by fire in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Save for twenty of their mates who had been killed when the missile struck, most of its crew managed to abandon ship, who sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as they waited for rescue. Imagine doing that in ball-shrinking cold, shark-infested waters, and you will understand why the sinking of the Sheffield became synonymous with British stoicism in the face of an absolute FUBAR scenario.
The bottom line is that while you may cringe at the thought of a ground torpedo finding its way up your AC’s tailpipe, it’s not quite as nasty as the thought of being burned alive in some dark, smoking, twisted control room on a crippled destroyer out in the middle of nowhere. And remember, the missile that hit the Sheffield didn’t detonate – here’s a video of what may have happened if its warhead had actually done the deed: