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Starstreak Anti-Aircraft Guided Missile System, United Kingdom

Key Data

Starstreak ground-to-air missile

Starstreak is a close-range anti-air guided-weapon system for use against helicopters and high-speed ground attack aircraft. The system is produced by Thales Air Defence Ltd (TADL), formerly Shorts Missile Systems, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The Starstreak self-propelled, high-velocity missile (SP HVM) system has been in service with the British Army since 1997, with the lightweight multiple launcher (LML) and shoulder-launched versions since September 2000.

The original order of 135 systems was completed and a five-year production contract was awarded to Shorts in December 1999. A follow-on contract, with deliveries starting in 2007, was awarded in July 2004.

Deployment is with the 12th regiment in three batteries of 36 systems. Starstreak received export clearance for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in September 1999.

In July 2004, the UK MoD announced that the number of Starstreak HVM units in the army was to be reduced from 156 to 84 fire units.

Starstreak surface-to-air missile system orders and deliveries

"Starstreak is a close-range anti-air guided-weapon system for use against helicopters and high-speed ground attack aircraft."

In December 2002, the South African Army ordered eight Starstreak lightweight multiple launchers. The systems were supplied by Kentron. The order formed the first phase of South Africa's ground-based air defence local warning segment. The systems are supported by two Thales Page radars. The launchers were delivered in October 2005. The South African Army began missile firing trials in October 2007, and Starstreak entered service in 2010.

In July 2001, TADL received a contract for a SIFF (successor identification friend or foe) system for the Starstreak HVM. French firm Thales Communications is the main subcontractor.

In November 2012, Thales UK signed a contract with the Royal Thai Army to supply the Starstreak air defence missile system.
The Starstreak missiles were deployed by the British Army to protect London during the Olympic Games held in 2012. The UK MoD ordered an additional 200 Starstreak missiles in October 2013.

In January 2014, the Indonesian Ministry of Defence awarded a contract to Thales UK for the supply of Starstreak missiles coupled with Thales' ForceSHIELD integrated advanced air defence system.

A follow-on contract was placed by DataGate for the delivery of Starstreak missiles and lightweight multiple launchers to the Royal Thai Army in September 2015. Malaysia's Global Komited placed a contract for Starstreak missiles and ForceSHIELD air defence systems in the same month.

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Starstreak and Rapier ground-based air defence programme

A new air defence command-and-control system named ADC4I was developed for phase one of the UK MoD's ground-based air defence (GBAD) programme. The system integrates Starstreak and the Rapier FSC air defence missile system to provide network-enabled capabilities. Phase two involved the upgrading of the missile systems. MBDA and EADS Defence & Communications were awarded the contract for the assessment phase of the programme in December 2003.

Starstreak II extended range surface-to-air missile system

In September 2007, Thales announced the development of Starstreak II, which has an extended range of more than 7km, increased coverage and altitude, and improved precision guidance.

Thales is also developing the multi-mission system (MMS), which is a lightweight vehicle-mounted turret system, which can be equipped with the Starstreak and/or other missiles such as anti-armour missiles or rocket systems. The system has automatic target tracking and can be integrated into a network-enabled force structure.

The Starstreak II system was successfully demonstrated to the UK MoD in March 2008. The upgraded launcher and missile were tested in November 2010. The system was showcased at the IMDEX maritime defence show in May 2011.

In January 2008, Thales was awarded a contract by the UK MoD for the capability support of the Starstreak systems until 2020. The contract also includes the supply of a new fire control system and automatic target tracking for the SP HVM.

Starstreak missile system details

The missile consists of a two-stage solid propellant rocket motor, a separation system and three high-density darts. A pulse from the missile firing unit causes the first-stage motor to ignite, acceleraterating the missile.

Canted nozzles on the missile cause it to roll. The centrifugal force of the roll causes the fins to unfold for aerodynamic stability in flight.

Once clear of the canister, the motor is jettisoned. The second-stage motor ignites and accelerates the missile to a velocity greater than Mach 4. A separation system at the front end of the motor contains three darts. When the second stage motor is burnt out, the thrust triggers these darts to automatically separate.

The darts maintain high-kinetic energy as they are guided to the same single target. Each dart contains guidance and control circuitry, a thermal battery and a high-density penetrating warhead with fuse.

The separation of the darts initiates the arming of the individual warheads. Each dart is guided independently using a double laser-beam riding system. As the dart impacts the target, the inertial forces activate the delay fuse, allowing the warhead to penetrate before detonation.

Starstreak self-propelled high-velocity missile (SP HVM) system

The Starstreak SP HVM is mounted on a tracked BAE Systems Land Systems (formerly Alvis) Stormer vehicle. The system carries 12 Starstreak missiles, as well as eight rounds of ready-to-fire missiles.

"In July 2004, the UK MoD announced that the number of Starstreak HVM units in the British Army was to be reduced from 156 to 84 fire units."

SP HVM is fitted with a roof-mounted air defence alerting device (ADAD), supplied by Thales (formerly Pilkington) Optronics. ADAD's infrared scanner and processor provide target detection and prioritisation, and the system automatically slews the weapon sight onto the target. The use of ADAD requires that the vehicle be, briefly, stationary.

A panoramic weapon sight is supplied by Avimo (now part of Thales) and located at the front right of the vehicle. Thales Optronics has been awarded a contract to supply a new thermal sighting system for the British Army SP HVM.

The system is based on STAIRS C (sensor technology affordable infrared systems) technology, developed by Thales Optronics and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), now called QinetiQ.

ATASK, air-to-air Starstreak, tested by the US Army

An airborne variant of Starstreak, ATASK provides air-to-air capabilities for attack helicopters. ATASK has been tested for the US Army on the Apache attack helicopter.

The first phase of the programme involved the launch of six Starstreak missiles from an Apache helicopter at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. In November 1998, ATASK successfully hit targets during the airborne firing tests. During the second phase, Starstreak's laser beam guidance system was integrated with the target acquisition sight (TADS) and fire control system of the Apache.

Shoulder-launched Starstreak and lightweight multiple launcher

The portable, shoulder-launched Starstreak is assembled and ready to fire in a few seconds. Preparation for firing involves clipping an aiming unit onto the missile canister.

The aiming unit includes an optical head consisting of a stabilisation system, an aiming mark injector and a monocular sight. The target is acquired and optically tracked using the monocular sight and aiming mark.

In service with the British Army, the lightweight multiple launcher (LML) is integrated with Thales Air Defence ASPIC automatic fire unit and can be carried on any light-wheeled vehicle such as a Land Rover or HMMWV.

The multiple launcher employs three canistered missiles with clip-on equipment and a standard aiming unit. Three targets can be engaged in quick succession without the need for reloading.

The Global Missiles & Missile Defence Systems Market 2011-2021

This project forms part of our recent analysis and forecasts of the global Missiles & Missile Defence Systems market available from our business information platform Strategic Defence Intelligence. For more information click here or contact us: EMEA: +44 20 7936 6783; Americas: +1 415 439 4914; Asia Pacific: +61 2 9947 9709 or via email.