SPECIAL REPORT                                                                                                                                           FROM THE INTERNET


Among the latest close air defence missiles is the STARSTREAK

The Starstreak is a close range anti-air guided weapon system for defence against helicopters and high speed ground attack aircraft. The system has been developed and produced by Shorts Missile Systems Ltd of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The missile is supplied sealed in a canister and requires no test procedures. The missile consists of a two-stage solid propellant rocket motor, a separation system and three high density darts.

A pulse of power from the missile firing unit causes the first stage motor to ignite. The first stage motor is burnt completely within the length of the canister as it accelerates the missile. Canted nozzles on the missile cause the missile to roll. The centrifugal force of the roll causes the stabilising fins to unfold for aerodynamic stability in flight. Once clear of the canister the motor separates and is jettisoned. The second stage motor ignites and accelerates the missile to an end-of-boost 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 attenuation in the thrust triggers the three darts to automatically detach and separate. The darts maintain a high kinetic energy as they home in on the same single target. Each dart contains guidance and control circuitry, a thermal battery, and a high density penetrating warhead complete with a fuse. The separation of the three darts initiates the arming of the individual warheads. When the darts are clear of the missile body, the guidance system in the dart guides each dart independently. Guidance is accomplished using a double laser beam riding system. The darts are equipped with steerable fins. As the dart impacts the target the inertial forces activate the delay fuse. The period of delay allows the warhead to penetrate the target before detonation for maximum lethality.


Helstreak, an airborne variant of Starstreak, provides an air-to-air capability for attack helicopters. The Starstreak is undergoing tests for the United States Army on the Apache attack helicopter. The first phase of the programme was a $6 million technical feasibility study by Shorts Missile Systems, Lockheed Martin Electronics and Missiles and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems. The technical feasibility programme involved the launch of six Starstreak high velocity missiles from an Apache helicopter during ground, hover and air tests at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

During the second $12.9 million phase of the evaluation the laser beam guidance system of Starstreak is being integrated with the Target Acquisition Sight (TADS) and the fire control system of the Apache helicopter. The fully integrated system provides an automatic hands-off guidance capability. Live test firings have been scheduled against a range of target profiles.

The guidance by laser beam riding is highly resistant to countermeasures. The system is fast in action in that it has no requirement for sensor cool down or similar pre-firing sequence which gives a significant time to fire advantage over missile systems fitted with infra-red seekers.


The shoulder launched Starstreak is a portable system. A main feature of the shoulder launch Starstreak is that it is assembled and ready to fire in a few seconds. Preparation for firing involves clipping an aiming unit onto the sealed missile canister and acquiring the target in the monocular sight. After firing, the empty canister is discarded and a new round is clipped into position ready to engage another target.


The aiming unit comprises two detachable assemblies, an optical head and a control unit. The head consists of a stabilisation system, an aiming mark injector and a monocular sight hermetically sealed in a light alloy cast body. The target is acquired and optically tracked using the monocular sight and aiming mark. The control unit consists of a power supply and electronic assemblies for processing and control in an hermetically sealed lightweight moulded case. The joy-stick, trigger assembly, system switch, wind offset switch and a super elevation button are mounted on a control handle.


The Lightweight Multiple Launcher can be used by operators of the shoulder launched Starstreak without additional training. The Multiple Launcher employs three canistered missiles together with clip-on equipment and a standard aiming unit. Three targets can be engaged in quick succession without the need for reloading.

The Multiple Launcher can be used free standing on a firm surface or in a trench. The Launcher is broken down into two assemblies for portability: the tripod stand and the traverse head. To prepare the Launcher for action the tripod is erected, the traverse head is fitted, the missiles and the aiming unit are clipped into position and the operator acquires the target in the optical sight.


Armoured Starstreak is a self-propelled Starstreak system with eight roof mounted missile launchers. The missile launchers can rotate and levitate. The aimer's control console, the servo mechanisms and the power control unit and stowage for additional missiles are protected inside the vehicle.


Missile body length 140 centimetres (approx)
Missile body diameter 13 centimetres (approx)
Weight 20 kilograms
Maximum speed > 4 Mach
Range 0.3 to 7 kilometres