Starstreak High-Velocity Missile (HVM)

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.

The British Army describe the Starstreak High-Velocity Missile (HVM) as;

The Starstreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) is designed to counter threats from very high performance, low-flying aircraft and fast ‘pop up’ strikes by helicopter attacks. The missile, which travels at more than three times the speed of sound, uses a system of three dart-like projectiles, allowing multiple hits on the target. HVM can be fired from the shoulder, from a lightweight multiple launcher or from the Stormer armoured vehicle.

It is made by Thales in Belfast.

Thales Starstreak Missile

Starstreak HVM History

Blowpipe entered service with the British Army in the late seventies as a man-portable air defence missile for use against oncoming targets mainly thought to be Warsaw Pact attack helicopters and fighters.

It was used operationally by both the UK and Argentine during the 1982 Falklands Conflict although only with limited success. Despite nearly 100 being fired only two confirmed kills were achieved, Argentine forces shot down a Harrier GR.3 with one and an Argentine Aermacchi MB.339 was shot down over Goose Green.

Blowpipe Falklands

Blowpipe Falkland

The Other Side



Although many criticised this performance it was somewhat unfair, the engagements Blowpipe was designed for were very different from those encountered in 1982. The much-feted Stinger, unlike Blowpipe, had trouble with oncoming targets and could be defeated with IR countermeasures. Blowpipe also had a much larger warhead.

That said, it needed replacement.

That new system was Javelin, entering service in 1984 after Shorts had received developed funding from the MoD. 46 Air Defence Battery 2 Field Regiment Royal Artillery was the first unit to be equipped with Javelin in 1984. It was reported in 1985 that in training, hit ratios had increased significantly. The most significant improvement was a replacement for the guidance system, instead of Manual Command Line of Sight (MANLOS) the new weapon was to use the Semi-Automatic Command Line of Sight (SACLOS). Instead of manually guided the missile to the target, the operator would maintain the aim point on the target and the missile would do the rest. This allowed the system to attack oncoming targets and reduced the training overhead significantly. Although Javelin looked superficially similar to Blowpipe it was a new system.

Javelin was replaced by the Javelin S-15 that used a laser beam-riding guidance system, the basis of which was used for Starstreak. Javelin S-15 was also called Starburst. This was a significant development for the Javelin system and would form the basis for follow-on systems like LMM and HVM. A version of the Shorts Shorland armoured car was also fitted with the three-round Light Missile Launcher


Shorts Javelin 1



Javelin S15 - Starburst

Despite Javelin coming into service, the MoD formed a requirement for a system that would complement Rapier for manoeuvre forces. General Staff Requirement (GSR) 3979 for a high-velocity anti-aircraft missile was issued. Two bidders emerged, Shorts and BAE, a one-year definition study was awarded to both in 1984.

BAE proposed a Mach 4 missile called Thunderbolt. It was available in an eight-round trainable launcher mounted on the Stormer armoured vehicle, a single round shoulder launcher and a four-round pedestal launcher. Shorts entered the 4km range High-Velocity Missile called Starstreak, also available in the vehicle, shoulder and pedestal mounting options.


BAE Thunderbolt


Shorts Starstreak HVM

Self Propelled Starburst/HVM

Starburst Self propelled Launcher



Air to Air Starstreak (ATASK)


Starstreak won

Even before Starstreak came into service the MoD awarded a contract to Thorn EMI Electronics for four hundred Air Defence Alerting Devices (ADAD). The same technology had also been specified for the Eurofighter Typhoon, this would go on to become the Passive Infra-Red Airborne Tracking Equipment (PIRATE) system seen on the nose of the Typhoon.

In 2001, the MoD awarded a £66 million contract to Thales Air Defence (formerly Shorts Missile Systems) for Successor Identification Friend or Foe for the British Army’s Starstreak HVM.

A follow-on contract implemented a thermal sighting system.

Thales was awarded an availability contract worth £200 million in 2008 under the Air Defence Availability Project (ADAPT);

The Minister of State for Defence Equipment & Support (Min DE&S), Quentin Davies MP, has today announced that Thales UK has been awarded a contract worth more than £200m from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to deliver the Air Defence Availability Project (ADAPT) in support of the Starstreak high-velocity missile (HVM) system. He made the announcement during a visit to the company’s Belfast facility, where Starstreak is manufactured and assembled.

Missile Support Contract

Under the terms of the missile support contract, which will sustain up to 100 jobs for the Belfast site in Castlereagh, Thales UK will ensure that a specified level of availability of the Starstreak HVM system is provided to the UK Armed Forces. It also covers the support of all HVM equipment until the scheduled out-of-service date at the end of 2020.

Accompanied by Alex Dorrian, CEO Thales UK, and Steve Hill, Vice President and Managing Director of Thales UK’s air systems business, the Minister was given a tour of the site and given a briefing on the various products being developed there for the UK Armed Forces and for export. The Minister was joined on the tour by Peter Robinson, local site MP, Assembly Member and First Minister for Northern Ireland; and Arlene Foster, Minister of Enter­prise, Trade and Investment, Northern Ireland Assembly.

Min DE&S also met the Trade Union rep­re­sen­tatives and a range of Thales employees, including appren­tices, recent graduates, and staff who have been with the company for over 40 years. Missile Support Contract Steve Hill, Vice President and Managing Director of Thales UK’s air systems business, and head of the Belfast site, says: “The ADAPT contract is key to sustaining our current levels of employment and will protect up to 100 highly skilled, technical engineering jobs throughout the life of the project.”

Crucial Weapon System

The Minister for Defence Equipment & Support, comments: “This is an important con­tract with Thales UK as it ensures the availability of the high-velocity missile, a crucial weapon system for the UK Armed Forces. Through this £200m contract we are sustaining technologies within the UK industrial base that are important for our future defence needs, and sustaining up to 100 vital jobs over the next decade.

I am committed to providing our Armed Forces with the best possible equipment to deal with a wide range of potential operations.” Alex Dorrian, CEO Thales UK, says: “It is important to Thales that Quentin Davies MP has been able to visit us in Belfast, a centre of excellence within the global Thales Group. Belfast has supported the MoD for more than 50 years and the MoD is still the main customer for what we do here. We were pleased to be able to show him the type of technology undertaken here in Belfast.”

Some 530 of Thales UK’s 9,000 workforce are based at the Belfast site. The company is an important source of high-tech, high-skill employment in the region and in the last year has recruited around 30 people, including a high number of engineers. The site is planning to recruit around another 40 in 2009

ADAPT assured support out to 2020 and also included a capability insertion programme; the development of a new day/night fire control capability, automatic target tracking and a new missile standard, Starstreak II. The improvements were to be delivered under the HVM Integrated Programme Enhancement project. A new training system would also be introduced, taking advantage of the latest high-fidelity simulation technology.


In 2011, the MoD and Thales came to an agreement on the Lightweight Multirole Missile;

Thales UK and the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) have today announced an innovative approach to contracting under the principles of Team Complex Weapons (TCW).

The two parties have agreed to ‘re-role’ previously contracted budgets to facilitate the full-scale development, series production and introduction of the Lightweight Multi-role Missile (LMM) into service for UK Armed Forces.

“This is a clear demonstration of MoD and industry working in partnership…” Specific activities covered under this contract amendment include:- design, development and qualification of the laser beam rider version of LMM, production of an initial delivery quantity of 1,000 LMM, precision guidance system that will deliver a highly accurate performance against static and mobile targets and with low-collateral damage

The multi-role aspects of LMM mean that the UK will have the ability to use a single family of weapons to take on a variety of roles, including maritime role – LMM will be integrated as the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon Light FASGW(L) missile on the new Wildcat Lynx helicopter platform under a parallel programme with the UK MoD. Ground-to-ground role – the dual-effect warhead of LMM (blast fragmentation and shaped charge) makes it suitable for a wide range of ground targets including light/medium armour; air-launched role – the modular design of the missile permits the future development and introduction of alternative warheads, seekers including a semi-active laser (SAL) version for precision strike surface attack roles;

Speaking at the announcement, David Beatty, Managing Director of Thales UK’s Belfast facility, where LMM will be manufactured, said: “This is a clear demonstration of MoD and industry working in partnership to ensure that we deliver the products that our Armed Forces require in a timely and affordable manner.”

“This contract also helps broaden our UK design, development and manufacturing capabilities that specialise in lightweight and short-range missiles, such as our Starstreak and VT1 air defence products and the NLAW anti-armour weapon.”

“LMM is unique in that it’s the first lightweight weapon family to be specially designed to have a wide range of operational roles. We firmly believe that this is what Armed Forces require now and in the future as it not only can provide adaptability in the battlefield but also major benefits in whole life costs by having one weapon family with a highly cost-effective associated logistic support.”

“We have already conducted preliminary marketing of LMM and I can confirm that there is a very high level of interest in this new family of missiles. The main interest is coming from land, sea and air platform suppliers who are keen to have the lightweight, low cost and operational versatility that LMM can deliver. This contract shows Thales delivering the innovation intended by Team CW. ”

Alan Nicholl, Director Weapons at the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, said: “This is an excellent example of the objectives of Team CW at work. Such an innovative approach taken by Thales and the MoD to lightweight modular weapons will enhance the UK complex weapons industrial capability with a family of products designed to meet the requirements of both the UK and this dynamic export market sector. It is an excellent example of the UK’s export-led industrial policy in action.”

Starstreak achieved some measure of public recognition in 2012 when it was used to provide part of the air-defence capability for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

During the Olympic and Paralympic Games, London was briefly the world’s capital city. It hosted the greatest concentration of world leaders and monarchs, with over 160 in one place and at a predetermined time,” said Col. Jon Campbell, Commander, Joint Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD).”

“Both the home and international communities demanded that the Olympics were conducted in a safe and secure environment. From a GBAD perspective, the London 2012 air security plan was the most successful ever achieved in or by the UK, in terms of the Recognised Air Picture generated and the ability to respond proportionately to anything untoward within the London airspace.”

“Thales’s STARStreak missile system, and its Air Defence Alerting Device were absolutely essential to this success”

Olympics video

In 2013, 200 Starstreak II missiles were ordered by the MoD.

Starstreak HVM is currently in service with the Royal Artillery (12 Regiment and 106 Regiment Army Reserve) in Shoulder-Launched, Lightweight Multiple Launcher and Self Propelled variants.

Under Army 2020, 106 (Yeomanry) Regiment (Army Reserve) has two batteries (295 and 457) with Self Propelled HVM and one with the LML (265). The Regular HVM Regiment, paired with 106, is 12 Regiment. 12 Regiment has three batteries (T, 9 and 58) on Self Propelled HVM and one with LML (12).

The Lightweight Multiple Launcher is also in service with the Royal Marines, as is the single round launcher.

It was also recently announced that the British Army would integrate LMM with their Starstreak launch systems, namely the single canister launcher, Lightweight Multiple Launcher (LML) and FV433 Stormer vehicle.

In 2018, an additional £93 million contract was awarded to Thales for ongoing HCM and lightweight Multi-Role Missile (Martlet) support;

The project will enhance the High Velocity and Lightweight Multi-role Missile systems which are designed to intercept a wide range of air and surface threats such as enemy drones, helicopters and armoured vehicles. The upgrades include thermal imaging which ensures the High Velocity Missile system can be used 24 hours a day and ‘Friend or Foe’ identification, which will maximise intelligence on potential threats and targets. 

Thales and Bharat Dynamics agreed to manufacture Starstreak HVM in India in 2021

Starstreak HVM Capabilities

Starstreak HVM is an extremely lethal weapon system;

  • When combined with ADAD, detection is completely passive and can operate in day or at night
  • It can be networked and separated from the detection system using a simple cable
  • The missile has extremely high speed, if an aircraft does detect the launch, it has very little time to do anything about it
  • The missile guidance system cannot be jammed and is immune to countermeasures
  • The ‘hitiles’ have both a great deal of kinetic energy but also a delayed action fuze that initiates inside the target

It also has secondary ground-attack) capability and comprises a number of elements, in addition to various training aids and ancillaries;

High-Velocity Missile (HVM)

The Mach 3.5 missile is 1.4m long, 0.27m in diameter and weighs 16.8kg in its sealed launch tube.

As can be seen from the video below, the launching sequence is a two-stage process, the first stage ejects the missile to a safe distance whereupon the main motor propels the missile to the burnout stage. As the second stage motor burns out the dart release mechanism operates the three darts coast to the target. Each dart contains a delayed initiation 0.9kg blast fragmentation warhead for maximum target effects.

Coasting is perhaps not the best description, though, Starstreak HVM operates at a very high speed, Mach 3+. This high speed is designed to allow the system to be used against pop up and fleeting targets. It also reduces the possibility of detection and counter-attack.

Guidance is as per Javelin S15, laser beam riding. The operator places an indicator on the target and the tracking system maintains the aim point on the target. No countermeasures are possible, flares or chaff are ineffective.

Starstreak II (HVM A5) increases maximum range to ‘beyond 7km’

Shoulder and Lightweight Multiple Launcher

Although the Shoulder-Launched aiming unit is less commonly used it is very quick to deploy and contains a stabilised monocular sight and aiming point injector.

The lightweight multiple launcher (LML) can be fitted with up to three missiles to enable multiple targets to be quickly engaged, one after the other. It uses a standard aiming point with IFF and Thales ASPIC automatic fire control system.

LML Image 3

The tripod weighs 16kg, traverse head 19.5kg, sighting system 9kg and thermal sight, 6kg.

LML Image 1

Thales unveiled a new Lightweight Multiple Launcher in 2015 that reduced the missile count by one but reduced weight. It also has the capability to use the Lightweight Multirole Missile and thermal imaging optics, together with full network connectivity for integration with other air defence systems.

LML Next Generation

Firing video

Air Defence Alerting Device (ADAD)

The Thales Air Defence Alerting Device (ADAD) is a passive infra-red detection, classification and prioritisation system used in conjunction with both the LML and SP launch systems. Operating in the 8-14micron waveband, it can detect fixed-wing targets at 9km and helicopters at 6km.


It consists of three main components, the rotating scanner infra-red assembly (SIA), electronic pack remote display unit (EPRDU) and electronic pack processing unit (EPPU). A power supply unit and cables complete the system. The detector uses a continuously rotating mirror, providing 360-degree coverage at -7 to +17 degrees elevation. The electronics processor and display unit provide prioritised target information to the operator and can also be used to automatically cue the weapon launch system. Multiple display units can be connected, up to 500m from the scanner.


The total programme cost for the ADAD programme was approximately £100m

Self Propelled HVM

The Alvis/BAE Stormer vehicle is used as the base for the Self-Propelled Starstreak HVM system. The vehicle carries eight missiles in a ready to launch assembly and up to a further twelve missiles in the rear compartment.

SPM Starstreak Stormer 6

The Air Defence Alerting Device (ADAD) is mounted on the missile launch assembly and the thermal sighting assembly is mounted on the front right-hand side of the vehicle roof.

CVR(T) Starstreak

This is a Thales unit, based on the STAIRS C system.


SPM Starstreak Stormer 4

SPM Starstreak Stormer 5


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Change Status

Change Date Change Record
 20/05/2016 Initial issue
28/07/2021  Refresh and format update 
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