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Mistral Short-Range Air-Defence Missile System, France




Key Data


Mistral anti-aircraft short-range missile system

Mistral anti-aircraft short-range missile system


Mistral is a very short-range air defence missile system that can be used from various platforms – vehicles, surface ships and helicopters, as well as in a portable configuration. Development of the SATCP (sol-air à très courte portée), the French portable missile later to become the Mistral, began in 1974.

Matra was selected as the prime contractor to develop the Mistral in 1980. Matra became Matra BAE Dynamics, which is now MBDA. MBDA is the company formed by the merging of missile and missile systems activities of Matra BAE Dynamics, Aerospatiale Matra (EADS) and Alenia Marconi Systems.

Mistral entered series production in 1989 and is now deployed by 40 armed forces of 27 countries. Over 16,000 missiles have been ordered. In June 2001, the last of 45 ATLAS launchers and 9 MCP with Mistral 2 missiles were delivered to Hungary.

In February 2007, Estonia placed an order for the Mistral 2 missile system. The contract was valued at €60m with 25 launchers entering sevice in 2009.

Saab Microwave Systems has been contracted to provide the associated Giraffe AMB3D air defence radars. Deliveries began in July 2008.

MBDA and Rheinmetall Defence Electronics of Germany are developing the multi-purpose combat system (MPCS) which is armed with four Mistral missiles. The system consists of an armoured wheeled vehicle with turret which has a Rheinmetall DE EOSS day / thermal sensor suite with integrated laser rangefinder. First missile firing tests of the MPCS took place in 2009.

Mistral 2 'fire and forget' anti-aircraft missile

The fully autonomous 'fire and forget' Mistral 2 missile is equipped with a two-stage solid propellant rocket motor designed and developed by Snecma Propulsion Solide based in Paris, using EURENCO (formerly SNPE) propellant charges.

The missile is armed with a 3kg high-explosive warhead loaded with tungsten ball projectiles. The warheads, supplied by Manufacture de Machines du Haut Rhin SA, based in Mulhouse, France, are equipped with a contact fuse, a laser proximity fuse and a time delay self-destruct device.

Guidance is by passive infrared homing using an indium arsenide detector array operating in the three to five micron waveband, which was developed by SAT, now Safran (the merger of SAGEM and Snecma), in Paris. The detector array is housed in a low-drag transparent hexagonal pyramid shaped nose cone.

Compared to any other low-level air defence missile, Mistral is more reliable and successful. It has a success rate of 93%.

MANPADS operating system

The MANPADS system is portable by two people, one carrying the missile and one carrying the firing unit. The system can be set up and ready to fire in 60 seconds. The firing station has a seat, a fire control unit and a compressed air supply.

"The Mistral 2 missile is armed with a 3kg high-explosive warhead loaded with tungsten ball projectiles."

The compressed air initiates the missile's gyroscopes and is used as the coolant for the infrared detectors. A telescopic sight is used for target acquisition. The IFF (identification, friend or foe) interrogator installed in the launcher operates while the target is being tracked. The system can be fitted with a thermal imaging night sight, for example the Sagem MATIS or Thales (formerly Pilkington) Optronics MITS 2.

Sagem received a contract in February 2002 to provide MATIS sights for the French Air Force. The missile is fired when the gunner sees a confirmation light on the launcher to signal that the infrared sensor system is locked-on to the target.

On firing the booster motor accelerates the missile to a speed of 40m/s and burns out before the missile leaves the launch tube. In less than 0.4s, with the missile at a distance of about 15m from the gunner, the sustainer motor ignites and accelerates the missile towards the target at Mach 2.5. The range of the missile is up to 6km, which it reaches in 9s.

Mistral coordination post (MCP)

The Mistral coordination post (MCP) enables day and night coordination, control and monitoring of up to 12 MANPADS systems, ALBI or ATLAS firing units. The MCP is fitted to a light armoured vehicle such as the Panhard VBL 4×4 or offroad light vehicle. The MCP is in service with Nato countries and has been ordered by Oman.

ALBI twin Mistral 2 launcher

ALBI is a twin launcher firing post for the Mistral 2 missile that was launched by Matra BAE Dynamics in 2000. The first customer for the ALBI is the Sultanate of Oman, which ordered the system in November 2000. The firing post is installed on a retractable turret, which is mounted on an armoured, tracked or wheeled vehicle.

The systems for Oman will be mounted on the Panhard VBL light armoured vehicle. The system can be operated and set up by a single gunner and can be equipped with a thermal imaging sight.

Atlas twin Mistral launcher

Launched in the early 1990s, Atlas is a twin-launcher for the Mistral Air defence system. It has been designed to provide greater mobility, flexibility, high fire-power and autonomy and can be installed on many high mobility vehicles or used in a pedestal version. The system can be made operational in under five seconds and has been engineered to be fired in less than five seconds.

Mistral missile vehicle mounts

Mygale, supplied by Thales, is a short-range modular air defence system comprising an Aspic launcher and a fire control station. The fire control station contains a TRS.2630 Griffon two-dimensional pulse Doppler radar developed by Thales.

"Mistral entered series production in 1989 and is now deployed by 40 armed forces of 27 countries."

The Aspic launcher is a four-launch unit on a pedestal mount and fitted with a television sight and tracking system. Aspic can be equipped with a thermal imager, a laser range finder and an IFF transponder. Aspic can fire Mistral or Stinger missiles. Mygale can control up to eight Aspic launch stations, each with four missile launchers.

The French Army selected Samantha, a variant of the Mygale. Samantha uses a Panhard light armoured vehicle with a telescopic mast, a Griffon radar and a command and control system.

Guardian, developed by Matra and by Boeing Defense Systems, uses the Mistral and is based on the HMMWV M998 high-mobility wheeled launch platform. Some of the subsystems are common with the Boeing Avenger mobile short-range air defence system.

The General Dynamics / Thales Blazer air defence system is based on the Mowag Pirhana 8x8 armoured vehicle with a Blazer turret. The turret is fitted with a Thales Gerfaut search radar, Mistral missiles, a television and thermal sight and a 2.5km range GE GAU-12 25mm Gatling gun.

Shipborne and airborne Mistral missile systems

Mistral is also successfully deployed in shipborne and airborne roles. Sadral is the shipborne six-missile system for multiple target anti-aircraft and anti-missile operations. Simbad is a shipborne two-launch system.

The helicopter-borne versions of Mistral are the air-to-air Mistral ATAM or air-air très courte portée, AATCP.

Mistral air defence system missile being fired The Mistral portable air defence missile system.
Soldiers trageting the Mistral Air Defence system The Mistral portable missile system can be set up and ready to fire in 60 seconds.
Missile from the Mistral Air Defence system in flight The Mistral missile has a range of 6km and is armed with a 3kg high-explosive warhead.
Mistral Coordination Post (MCP) systems of the Mistral Air Defence System The Mistral coordination post (MCP) system.
Mistral air defence system missiles in factory setting The Mistral missile is in service with the armed forces of 27 countries.
Tiger helicopter firing a Air-to-Air Mistral (ATAM) missile A Tiger helicopter firing the air-to-air Mistral (ATAM).
Sadral shipborne system which uses six Mistral missiles The Sadral shipborne system with launcher for six Mistral missiles.
Mistral missile being launched from a shipbourne missile launcher The two-cell Simbad launcher for ship-launched Mistral.