Starstreak HVM (High Velocity Missile) is a British short range man-portable air-defence system (MANPADS) manufactured by Thales Air Defence (formerly Shorts Missile Systems), in Belfast. STARStreak High Velocity Missile was designed to provide close air defence against conventional air threats such as fixed wing fighters and late unmasking helicopter targets. After launch, the missile accelerates to more than Mach 4, making it the fastest short-range surface-to-air missile in the world. It then launches three laser beam riding submunitions, increasing the likelihood of a successful hit on the target. Starstreak has been in service with the British Army since 1997. In 2012 Thales rebranded the system under the ForceSHIELD banner.
The STARStreak configuration is based on the proven principles of high velocity to defeat targets with short unmasking times. The three dart payload maximises levels of lethality and accurate line of sight; laser beam riding guidance enables engagement of the smallest signature targets, which are extremely difficult to defeat and lock onto by traditional fire and forget missiles. Each sub-munition dart travelling at 1,250 metres per second (4,100 ft/s; 2,800 mph) has comparable kinetic energy to a shell from a Bofors 40 mm gun and probably has sufficient energy to penetrate the front armour of an infantry fighting vehicle. However, it lacks the armour penetration capabilities of a purpose-built anti-tank guided missile or of a dual purpose missile (such as the Air Defence Anti-Tank System).
Thales has addressed the needs of military users around the world and introduced major improvements to provide increased range beyond 7 km, increased coverage and altitude and improved guidance precision against small targets. The STARStreak missile is capable of being launched from lightweight land, sea and air platforms, from either automatic fire control systems such as the RAPIDRanger or the STARStreak Lightweight Multiple Launcher, Next Generation (LML NG). STARStreak can therefore be deployed quickly into operations and is easy to integrate into a force structure.
Starstreak has a number of advantages over infrared homing guided, radar homing guided, and radio command guidance MCLOS/SACLOS (e.g. 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.
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.