Starstreak is a British short-range surface-to-air missile that can be used as a man-portable air-defence system (MANPADS) or used in heavier systems. It is manufactured by Thales Air Defence (formerly Shorts Missile Systems) in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is also known as Starstreak HVM (High Velocity Missile). After launch, the missile accelerates to more than Mach 4,[4][3] making it the fastest short-range surface-to-air missile in existence.[5] It then launches three laser beam-riding submunitions, increasing the likelihood of a successful hit on the target. Starstreak has been in service with the British Army since 1997. In 2012 Thales relaunched the system as ForceSHIELD.[5]

A British Royal Artillery soldier protects an airfield with a man-portable Starstreak HVM system
TypeMan-portable/vehicle mounted surface-to-air missile
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Service history
In service1997–present
Used bySee § Operators
WarsRusso-Ukrainian War
Production history
ManufacturerThales Air Defence
ProducedNovember 1986
No. built7,000
VariantsSee § Variants
Specifications (Starstreak High Velocity Missile)
Mass14 kg (31 lb)[1]
Length1.397 m (4 ft 7 in)
Diameter13 cm (5.1 in)

Effective firing rangeStarstreak: 0.3–7 km (0.186–4.35 mi)
Starstreak II: >7 km (4.35 mi)[2][3]
WarheadThree explosive sub-munitions ("darts")
Warhead weight3×0.9 kg (2.0 lb) tungsten alloy darts, 450 g (16 oz) PBX-98 per dart
Impact delay

EngineFirst stage: Royal Ordnance 'Brambling' cast double-based propellant blip rocket motor.
Second stage: Royal Ordnance 'Titus' cast double-based propellant
Flight ceiling7 km (22,966 ft)
Maximum speed More than Mach 3 at second stage burnout[4][3]
SACLOS, Laser-beam guidance

Development edit

Starstreak LML emplacement used in training on Dartmoor, England; one of the three missiles has been fired
Starstreak missile on display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Expo, September 2006

Development on the missile began in the early 1980s after an evaluation of missile and gun options to increase air defence capabilities showed that a high-velocity missile system would best meet the needs and could also replace existing shoulder-launched missiles. A General Staff Requirement (GSR 3979)[6] was drawn up with the requirements of the system, specifying the requirement of three launch platforms for the missile:

  • A self-propelled launcher.[6]
  • A three-round lightweight launcher.[6]
  • A man-portable launcher.[6]

In 1984, the British Ministry of Defence awarded development contracts to British Aerospace (BAe) and Shorts Missile Systems; the BAe missile was known as Thunderbolt HVM. Shorts won the competition and were awarded £356 million. Further development and a production contract materialized in November 1986, and the missile was officially accepted into service in September 1997. The missile was intended to replace the Javelin surface-to-air missile in British service.[6] The LML and shoulder-launched versions have been in use since 2000.[6]

In July 2001, Thales received a contract for a successor identification friend or foe system for Starstreak.[6]

In mid-2007, Thales UK in Northern Ireland revealed that it had developed Starstreak II, a much improved successor to the Starstreak missile. Some of the advantages of the new version are increased range of 7 km (4.3 mi), improved lethality,[2][3] an improved targeting system, and much higher operating ceiling.[7][8]

In 2011, when it won a contract for the Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM), Thales announced it had agreed with the Ministry of Defence to "re-role previously contracted budgets to facilitate the full-scale development, series production and introduction of the LMM." The contract affected is speculated to have been Starstreak.[9]

Description edit

A Starstreak, just after being launched from an AN/TWQ-1 Avenger mobile, short-range air-defence platform

When used in the light or MANPADS role, the Starstreak missile is transported in a sealed launch tube. This tube is attached to an aiming unit for firing. The operator tracks the target using the aiming unit's optically stabilized sight. The process of tracking the target allows the aiming unit to compute the right trajectory to bring the missile together with the target. The operator can indicate wind direction to the unit and, in the case of a long-range target, provide superelevation. When the initial tracking is complete, the operator fires the missile by pressing a button.[6]

The missile then fires the first-stage rocket motor; this launches the missile from the tube but burns out before leaving the tube to protect the operator. Four metres (thirteen feet) away from the operator, when the missile is at a safe distance, the second stage fires. This rapidly accelerates the missile to a burn-out velocity exceeding Mach 3. As the second stage burns out, three dart sub-munitions are released.

The dart housing is made from a tungsten alloy. The darts are each 396 millimetres (15.6 in) long, 22 millimetres (0.87 in) in diameter, and about 900 grams (32 oz) in mass. Around half the weight of each dart – approximately 450 g (16 oz) – is its explosive charge, detonated by a delayed-action, impact-activated fuse.[6] Each dart consists of a rotating fore-body, with two canard fins, attached to a non-rotating rear assembly with four fins. The rear assembly of each dart also houses the guidance electronics including a rearwards facing sensor.

The darts do not home in on laser energy reflected from the target; instead, the aiming unit projects two laser beams which paint a two-dimensional matrix upon the target. The lasers are modulated, and by examining these modulations the sub-munitions sensor can determine the dart's location within the matrix. The dart is then steered to keep it in the centre of the matrix. The sub-munitions steer by briefly decelerating the rotating fore-body with a clutch. The front wings then steer the missile in the appropriate direction. The three sub-munitions fly in a formation about 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) in radius, and have enough kinetic energy to manoeuvre to meet a target evading at 9 g at 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) altitude.[6]

Earlier laser guidance systems used a single beam that had to be kept on the target at all times, the missile homing in on laser energy reflected off the target; if it moved off the target, the reflection would end and guidance would be lost until the target was regained. This problem could be reduced by making the laser's beam wider, but at the cost of reduced accuracy and reflected energy. Starstreak's system allows for the beam area to be much larger than the target while retaining pinpoint accuracy.

On impact with the target a delayed-action fuze is triggered, allowing the projectile to penetrate the target before the explosive warhead detonates. The tungsten housing is designed to fragment and maximise damage inside the target.[6]

In September 1999, the missile was demonstrated against an FV432 armoured personnel carrier, illustrating the missile's effectiveness as a surface-to-surface weapon.[6] Each sub-munition dart travelling at 4,500 kilometres per hour (2,800 mph) has comparable kinetic energy to a shell from a Bofors 40 mm gun,[citation needed] though it lacks the armour-penetration capabilities of a purpose-built anti-tank guided missile or a dual-purpose missile (such as the Air Defence Anti-Tank System).

Advantages edit

Starstreak has a number of advantages over infrared homing guided, radar homing guided, and radio command guidance MCLOS/SACLOS (e.g. Blowpipe or Javelin) missiles:

Service history edit

A Starstreak MANPADS carried by a Royal Marine on exercise in 2021

The missile was brought into service with 12 Regiment Royal Artillery and 47 Regiment Royal Artillery in 1997 as part of the High Velocity Missile (HVM) system equipped with both the Air Defence Acquisition Device (ADAD) and a ×60 thermal sight. Each regiment was equipped with 108 HVM self-propelled armoured launchers mounted on the Stormer tracked chassis capable of holding eight missiles ready to fire and a further eight reloads (the original capacity of twelve was reduced during a revision). The launchers could originally run on batteries for extended periods to minimise their signature, but significant upgrades dramatically increased the system's power requirements. A light-role variant known as HVM Lightweight Multi Launch (LML), capable of holding three ready-to-fire missiles, was also brought into service with the Air Defence Troop Royal Marines and a Royal Artillery Air Assault Battery attached to 16 Air Assault Brigade. The systems' armoured variant, the HVM Self Propelled (Stormer), saw service during the Second Gulf War but did not fire. The British Army currently uses the A5 fifth-generation missile, significantly improved from the original missile. The HVM SP and LML variants now carry a mix of both Starstreak A5 and Lightweight Multirole Missiles.

In 2012, the Ministry of Defence announced that it would be placing HVM LML light role detachments equipped with Starstreak A4 missiles on top of several blocks of flats in London prior to the 2012 London Olympics. The Ministry claimed that the area was the only suitable location for an air defence detachment of the type. Some residents were upset and uncertain of the necessity of the detachment.[10][11] In 2013, the British MoD ordered 200 more Starstreak missiles.[12]

On 16 March 2022, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced that the UK would supply Ukraine with Starstreak missiles to help prevent Russian air supremacy following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[13] British soldiers trained Ukrainian forces to use the system.[14] HVM SPs were also deployed to Poland as an interim measure until the arrival of Sky Sabre.[15] In April 2022, Starstreak missiles were in use by Ukrainian soldiers,[16] and it was reported that Ukrainian forces appeared to have successfully used the system to shoot down a Russian Mi-28N attack helicopter.[17][18][19] The missile, according to footage released by the UK MoD, hit with all three projectiles, splitting the helicopter in half.[18] In April 2022, the UK announced it would be providing Alvis Stormer vehicles armed with Starstreak.[20] By June 2023, the system had been used to shoot down multiple Russian drones.[21]

The British Army will be deploying Starstreak missiles to assist with the security of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.[22]

Variants edit

Alvis Stormer (HVM SP) firing Starstreak in 2014
  • ATASK (Air To Air Starstreak): Fired from a helicopter. This was developed in combination with McDonnell-Douglas and Lockheed Martin electronics between 1995 and 1998 specifically for use with the AH-64 Apache. It has yet to enter service.[6]
  • LML: Fired from a Lightweight Multiple Launcher (LML) that holds three missiles ready for firing and can be used as either a stationary launch unit or mounted on a light vehicle such as a Land Rover or HMMWV (Humvee). The LML originated in a proposal under the Army Suggestions Scheme for the Javelin system.[6]
  • Seastreak: Two versions of a naval mounting have been demonstrated—a one-man mount similar to the LML but carrying a total of six missiles, and a close in weapon system mounting holding 24 missiles.
  • Self-propelled (SP) HVM: Carried on an Alvis Stormer AFV with a roof-mounted eight-round launcher with internal storage for a further 8 missiles.[6] This is the most common variant.
  • Starstreak Avenger: Built to a U.S. Army requirement in the early 1990s, this system integrated the Starstreak missile on the Boeing Avenger vehicle, replacing 1 pod of Stinger missiles with 1 pod of 4 Starstreak and modifying the fire control system accordingly.
  • Starstreak Mark II: Upgrade to the Starstreak.
  • THOR/Multi Mission System (MMS): A four-missile turret mounted on a Pinzgauer (6×6) cross-country chassis,[23] launched by Thales UK in 2005.[24]
  • RapidRanger MMS weapon launcher on URO VAMTAC vehicle
Indonesian Army Starstreak RapidRanger on URO Vamtac ST5
  • Man-portable shoulder launcher[25]

Operators edit

Map with Starstreak operators in blue
  United Kingdom
  • HVM SP – Approx 40 systems for a front line establishment of 36 (156 originally purchased)
  • HVM LML – Approx 16 systems
  South Africa
  • Indonesian Army – First order was in November 2011, followed by a second but no deliveries were made and the contract was renegotiated in January 2014 to equip five batteries of ForceShield system[28] with Starstreak missiles, ControlMaster200 radars and weapon coordination systems, lightweight multiple launchers on Land Rover Defenders and RapidRanger weapon launchers on URO VAMTAC vehicles, at a cost of over £100m.[5] In 2022, PT. LEN stated that 9 battery already operational out of 10 battery ordered.[29]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Precision guidance with immunity to countermeasures" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
  2. ^ a b "Starstreak II". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05.
  3. ^ a b c d "Starstreak II > High Velocity Missile (HVM)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-08. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  4. ^ a b "Starstreak - CLOSE AIR DEFENCE MISSILES". Defence Journal. January 1999. Archived from the original on 25 March 2023. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Chuter, Andrew (14 January 2014). "Indonesia Purchases Air Defense System From Thales". Defense News. Archived from the original on 20 January 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Jane's Land-Based Air Defence 2005–2006. Jane's information group. February 2005. ISBN 978-0-7106-2697-4.
  7. ^ Foss, Christopher F (10 September 2007). "Starstreak II sighted". Janes Information Group. Archived from the original on 2009-04-12.
  8. ^ a b c "Starstreak High Velocity Missile". Copybook. 18 April 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-04-18.
  9. ^ CHUTER, ANDREW (4 Apr 2011). "Thales Wins UK Missile Order by Giving Up Other Work". Defense News.
  10. ^ "UK puts missiles on London rooftop to guard Olympics". Reuters. 2012-04-29. Archived from the original on 2015-10-18.
  11. ^ "Are Olympic missiles just for show?". BBC News. 2012-07-10. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  12. ^ "MOD orders more Starstreak missiles". Ministry of Defence. 11 October 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-10-15.
  13. ^ a b "UK supplying starstreak anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, defence minister Wallace tells BBC". Reuters. 16 March 2021. Retrieved 16 March 2022.
  14. ^ Parker, Charlie (2022-03-22). "British Starstreak that can tear a MIG apart".
  15. ^ "UK showcases missile systems to send to Poland". BFBS. 21 March 2022. Retrieved 21 March 2022.
  16. ^ "World's fastest laser-guided missile deployed to Ukraine". Retrieved 2022-03-30.
  17. ^ Parker, Charlie; Brown, Larisa (2022-04-01). "UK missile shoots down first Russian helicopter in Ukraine war". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460.
  18. ^ a b "Russian helicopter 'hit by British missile system'". BBC News. 3 April 2022.
  19. ^ Jack Buckby (11 May 2022). "Starstreak, the fastest surface-to-air missile ever made, is bringing down Russian helicopters in Ukraine". Insider.
  20. ^ Parker, Charlie (19 April 2022). "Britain sends Stormer anti-aircraft vehicles to Ukraine". The Times.
  21. ^ "Stealthy Destroyer of Orlan and Other Drones: Quiet Work of the British Missile System in the Hands of Ukrainian Military". Defense Express. 11 June 2023. Retrieved 3 April 2024.
  22. ^ "Starstreak manufacturer Thales sees weapons production double due to Ukraine". Forces News. 25 March 2024. Retrieved 3 April 2024.
  23. ^ "Thor – Multi-Mission air defense". Defense Update. No. 3. 2005 [Updated 2006-05-25]. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29.
  24. ^ "DSEi 2005: Thales UK launches THOR weapon system" (Press release). Thales. 2005-09-15. Archived from the original on 2009-04-12.
  25. ^ "STARStreak on Thales web site". Thales.
  26. ^ "Trade Registers". Archived from the original on 2010-04-14. Retrieved 2014-05-03.
  27. ^ Royal Thai Army selects Starstreak Archived 2012-11-20 at the Wayback Machine –, 16 November 2012
  28. ^ Brown, Nick (25 June 2014). "DVD 2014: Indonesian SAMs break cover, promising enhanced anti-UAV capability". Archived from the original on 7 July 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2022.
  29. ^ "Kemhan, Mabes TNI AD dan PT Len Industri Lakukan Uji Tembak Rudal Starstreak | PT Len Industri (Persero)". Retrieved 2022-11-06.
  30. ^ "Malaysia To Buy Starstreak V-Shorads Missiles". Defense World. 30 July 2015. Archived from the original on 1 August 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  31. ^ a b "Thales to provide Forceshield and Starstreak to Malaysia". Army Recognition. 2015-09-15. Archived from the original on 2015-09-19. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  32. ^ "Malaysian defenders". 1 December 1999. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  33. ^ "Starstreak anti-aircraft missile systems are arriving in Ukraine". 29 March 2022.

External links edit