The Expanse Wiki
The Expanse Wiki

"Sounds like torpedoes being fired..."

"Sounds like a LOT of torpedoes."

"I don't think this is a drill..."

Alex Kamal and Amos Burton, CQB

A missile is a powerful self-propelled weapon with an explosive warhead designed to detonate either on contact with its target or in proximity to it. Missiles are the standard primary armament on all warships.

They are also referred to as "torpedoes" when used in ship-to-ship combat, or "nukes" when equipped with a nuclear warhead.


Missiles are long-range, guided delivery systems that can be fitted with conventional explosives, plasma incendiaries (which melt armor and damage systems), or varying-yield nuclear warheads. They are jettisoned from the launcher, align themselves with the target, and then begin accelerating to high speeds. They have a high thrust-to-weight ratio so they can accelerate far faster than a ship, are nearly impossible to dodge, and cause devastating damage to a ship on contact, often wiping out smaller ships with a single hit.

Their ability to maneuver grants them a much higher effective range than railguns, even able to follow targets moving erratically. However, missiles do have a minimum range, so they are usually launched first in an engagement. This is because, as seen with the Canterbury's destruction, they have the side-effect of turning the "splashed" (destroyed target) ship into a destructive field of moving debris, posing a further threat to any other ship in the immediate area including its launcher. For this reason, the use of missiles in CQB is avoided. Missiles are also vulnerable to point defense cannons (PDCs), which can intercept them before closing to effective range, detonating them prematurely. This is countered by firing them in large numbers to overwhelm the PDCs on an enemy ship or firing on a target from multiple directions at once.

Being the standard armament on combat vessels, even ships small enough to not be fitted with railguns can carry missiles. Frigates, destroyers, corvettes, and patrol torpedo boats have one or two firing tubes. Larger ships like cruisers, battleships, and dreadnoughts carry between 3 and 10+ tubes.

It is also stated, in both the Books and TV universes, that the Martian Congressional Republic Navy (MCRN) had the most advanced torpedos and were said to be better in all capabilities than those of the United Nations Navy (UNN). However, during the Attack on the Donnager, a weapons officer in the Combat Information Centre (CIC) of the MCRN Donnager stated that the missiles fired from the Amun-Ra's had even more advanced guidance systems, straining the ship's excellent point-defense grid and allowing some to get through. This shows that missiles not only linearly accelerate but that some are also able to move erratically to dodge intercepting fire.

Ships carrying Missiles:[]

RPG MCRN flag.jpg Martian Congressional Republic Navy[]

RPG UNlogo.jpg United Nations Navy[]

RPG OPA logo.jpg Outer Planets Alliance[]

Protogenlogofromspacedockvideo.jpg Protogen[]

LaconiaFlagE Alt2.png Laconian Imperial Navy[]

Martian Congressional Republic.png Martian Congressional Republic Navy[]

UN logo.png United Nations Navy[]

Belternavybadge.png Outer Planets Alliance[]

  • Behemoth-class dreadnought: 6✕ External torpedo bays. (7 Single fire tubes each)
  • OPAS Tynan: 1✕ Torpedo tube. (original configuration) / 8✕ externally mounted torpedos (retrofitted configuration)

Protogenlogofromspacedockvideo.jpg Protogen[]


When James Holden and several crewmates entered the Scopuli to investigate what happened to the ship, the Anubis appeared and fired four nuclear missiles. While Holden thought at first that the missiles were intended for his team aboard their shuttle, the Knight, he realized too late that they were meant for the Canterbury. The massive ship was disintegrated in the blast, killing everyone onboard and turning the hulk into a deadly cloud of flying debris that nearly killed Holden and everyone else on their shuttle.

The MCRN Donnager, when engaging a squadron of stealth ships, fired a swarm of about 20 missiles that took out one of the six assailants. The remaining five attackers had already fired 11 of their own plasma missiles, at least two of which impacted and damaged the Donnager's main drive. The two sides then entered in Close Quarters Combat, (C.Q.B. which is the minimum range for missiles), finishing the battle with railgun rounds and PDC fire, resulting in the boarding of the Donnager.

The Scipio Africanus, an MCRN Morrigan-class patrol destroyer, was attacked by the Xinglong which slung a shattered asteroid at it and responded with a single, non-nuclear missile that instantly vaporized the small Belter prospecting ship.

During the Assault on Thoth Station, the stealth ship guarding the Protogen research facility fired two missiles at the oncoming Guy Molinari and Rocinante, which the latter was flying escort, shot down both missiles with her PDCs and moved in to engage in CQB.

Following the outbreak of the protomolecule on the Phoebe research station and the impending arrival of the UNN Nathan Hale, the MCRN Scirocco bombarded Phoebe with five high-yield nuclear missiles, turning the small ice moon into a cloud of fine debris that then eventually fell into Saturn. While containing the outbreak and preventing the research station from falling into enemy hands, the firing of the nukes heightened the tension between the UN and MCR, which had already been near the boiling point for a long time.

When Fred Johnson recovered the Nauvoo, he staked claim to it, renamed it the OPAS Behemoth, and not only attached 170 PDCs and 6 heavy Railgun turrets to the hull, but included 6 launch sets each with 7 single launch tubes in the huge ship's new armament, putting it on par (armament-wise) with Martian and Earth battleships. However, the weapons were hastily mounted onto a ship not designed for military action, and when firing even a single torpedo the ship would suffer a massive power grid failure. The bays also had no autoloading system, so automated drones were used to manually reload the tubes with fresh ordinance.

In the beginning of the Io Campaign, the MCRN Scirocco-class Assault Cruiser, the MCRN Hammurabi had effectively acquired the much larger and much more heavily armed UNN Truman-class Dreadnought, the UNN Agatha King, the flagship of the UNN Jupiter Fleet, into Torpedo range, having a greater effective torpedo range than its much larger and more heavily armed target.


  • A true torpedo is currently defined as "a cigar-shaped self-propelled underwater missile designed to be fired from a ship or submarine or dropped into the water from an aircraft and to explode on reaching a target."
  • Most ships in the Expanse deploy missiles by expelling them from a tube or silo at the front end (and also the back, in the case of Donnager-class battleships) of the ship. Stealth ships, however, open a hatch and jettison them out the side before they engage their target. This is likely because conventional torpedo holes would compromise the ships undetectable stealthy design.
  • Like all accelerating objects in the Slow Zone, missiles are locked down shortly after launch, although their boosters will continue to fire.
  • In order for a nuclear missile's warhead to be worthwhile, the missile's kinetic energy should be less than the detonation energy of the warhead. The first atomic bomb dropped on Japan had a weight of 4.4 metric tons and a yield of 15 kilotons, putting its maximum effective speed at 168.9 km/s. The largest nuclear weapon ever fully designed, the high-yield variant of the Tsar Bomba, had a weight of 27 metric tons and a yield of 100 megatons, putting its maximum effective speed at 5567 km/s. Thus, it can be theorized that nuclear missiles in The Expanse travel at somewhere between these two extremes, likely around the higher end due to the effects of over three more centuries of nuclear weapons development.


See also[]


  1. The Expanse Roleplaying Game, Ships of the Expanse, Chapter 4
  2. The Expanse Novel Tiamat's Wrath - Chapter 6: Alex