Starstreak is a British short range surface-to-air missile or MAN Portable Air Defense System (also known as MANPADS) manufactured by Thales Air Defence (formerly Shorts Missile Systems), in Belfast. It is also known as Starstreak HVM, where HVM stands for "High Velocity Missile". After launch, the missile accelerates to approximately Mach 3.5, at which point it launches three laser beam riding submunitions. The use of three submunitions increases the likelihood of a successful hit on the target. Starstreak has been in service with the British Army since 1997.
AdvantagesStarstreak has a number of advantages over infrared guided, radar guided, and radio command MCLOS/SACLOS (Blowpipe or Javelin) missiles:
- It cannot be jammed by infrared countermeasures or radar/radio countermeasures.
- It cannot be suppressed with anti-radar missiles.
- Its high speed makes it more likely to be able to intercept a fast moving aircraft.
- Three submunitions increase the size of the lethal area, increasing the probability that the target will be hit by at least one submunition. This is partially reduced by the missile's attack pattern (see disadvantages).
- Its high speed reduces the amount of time for effective usage of any potential countermeasure, such as the beam manoeuvring or illuminating the guidance laser source with a dazzling battlefield laser.
- The major disadvantage is the submunitions, having no proximity fuze, must collide with the target in order to harm it.
- The guidance laser may be detected after the missile is fired, if the target aircraft is equipped with a suitable passive laser warning system. In contrast, to detect a passively guided Infrared homing missile requires MAWS detectors with significant disadvantages: radar-based closure-detecting style MAWS radiate an easily-detectable signal that reveals the aircraft and may be used as an auxiliary homing signal by AA missiles, and Infrared launch signature detector-based MAWS tend to be subject to a high false alarm rate, which reduces attention paid them by the pilot.
- Battlefield obscurants, such as smoke, can degrade the ability of the missile operator to see the target, and could potentially interfere with the guidance laser.
- The training level of the operator is critical since, unlike infrared guided missiles, the operator has to track the target exactly with the sighting unit aimpoint (SACLOS). If the aircraft detects the targeting laser, it has the whole period of the missile flight time to engage in avoidance manoeuvres, which adds additional challenge to the missile operator's target-tracking task.