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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

StarStreak: How Britain Plans to Help Ukraine Kill Russia’s Helicopters and Air Force

StarStreak MANPAD headed to Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
StarStreak MANPAD headed to Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Here Comes StarStreak: British Go Back to the Well With More Weapons to Ukraine – The British are stepping up again by exploring a plan to send a portable anti-aircraft weapon to Ukraine. The StarStreak missile defender will likely be a show-stopper against Russian aircraft if delivered. The British have already sent around 3,600 NLAW anti-tank missiles to Ukraine with more on the way. Many of these were sent before the war started. This shows a willingness by the United Kingdom to keep Ukraine supplied with modern weaponry.

British Ministry of Defense Has New Plans to Help Ukraine

British defense minister Ben Wallace told Reuters on March 9, “In response to Ukrainian requests, the government has taken the decision to explore the donation of StarStreak high-velocity man-portable anti-air missiles. We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons but will allow the Ukrainian force to better defend their skies.”

British Usually Keep Arms Transfers to Ukraine Secret

The announcement of the StarStreak air defender is notable because defense officials from the United Kingdom have kept the specifics on their weapons exports to Ukraine under wraps in order to maintain operational security. This practice keeps the Russians in the dark. But publicly announcing the possibility of the StarStreak export will help Ukrainian morale.

What Is StarStreak?

StarStreak is a man-portable air-defense system (MANPAD) used by the British military since 1997. It has the ability to knock out helicopters, low-flying fighter jets, and drones. The weapon can be affixed to vehicles as well. It will be able to integrate with other air defenders in the Ukrainian anti-aircraft network.

StarStreak can be shoulder-fired or mounted on a stand. Each StarStreak missile weighs 30-pounds, and its range is 4.3-miles with a 3-mile ceiling. It is considered one of the fastest air defense missiles in the world with a top speed of MACH 3.5 that can track fast-moving jet fighters. The launch sequence starts with the operator looking through the viewfinder and “painting” the target to optically track it. Then the system initiates with a touch of a button.

Three Darts Are Deadly

When the multi-stage missile is fired it zooms to the target and then releases three laser-guided submunitions that are armed with high explosives. These have a delayed fuse, so the three “darts” with thermal batteries and kinetic energy penetrate into the target before the blast. Thus, StarStreak has a better chance of eliminating enemy aircraft. The system can take on three targets quickly without re-loading.

Stingers Have Worked Against the Russians, StarStreak Can Join This Fight

Russian helicopters have proven susceptible to MANPADs such as the Stinger. The Russians have used helicopters in air assault operations and the Ukrainians have been able to repel these types of attacks. StarStreak, if it is indeed shipped to the defenders, will add to anti-air capabilities against Russian helicopters.

StarStreak Can Address New Russian Helicopter Tactics

The Russians have also adjusted tactics to fly attack helicopters out in front of convoys for early warning and to suppress Ukrainian fire. StarStreak will be able to engage these aircraft with those fast and maneuverable missiles. The three submunitions that launch out of the missile will be deadly against Russian helicopters.

As major Ukrainian cities have become encircled, the Russians are increasingly using fighter-bombers to strike civilian targets. StarStreak, if it can get in the hands of Ukrainian troops, can down more Russian fighters. Overall, this British system would be a welcome addition and it shows that Britain is serious about assisting the Ukrainian military.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.