British missile manufacturer Thales may have
come up with a solution to a major problem with Western air-defense
troops; they have nothing to do. The solution is an anti-aircraft
missile that can also take out armored vehicles, and be used against
buildings. It's called Thor.
For over half a
century, Western armies have gone into action without having to worry
about hostile aircraft attacking them. That certainly does not
encourage spending on anti-aircraft weapons. Before the Cold War ended,
you could justify all those anti-aircraft weapons (shoulder fired
missiles, and larger ones mounted on trucks or armored vehicles)
because the Russians had lots of warplanes. They were a threat. Now the
Soviet Union, and all their warplanes, is gone. Russia is now a kinder,
gentler and less aggressive nation with a lot fewer combat aircraft.
It's been getting harder to justify all those anti-aircraft missiles
for the troops. Even in the war against Iraq, American Patriot
surface-to-air (SAM) missiles were only able to take out a few Iraqi
missiles, and two friendly warplanes (which was due to error, not
What Thor does is take the 54 pound Starstreak
missile and put it in a four launch container turret, along with its
guidance system (laser beam riding, all the operator has to do is keep
the cross hairs on the target, and the missile will go there.) All this
weighs about half a ton.
Another innovation is the
high speed of the missile (about 4,000 feet per second) and it's use of
three warheads (that separate from the missile shortly after launch),
each with its own guidance system. The three warheads increase the
chances of hitting what is being aimed at, and doing more damage
(because of the speed, which is faster than a rifle bullet). The
warheads hitting at that speed make a big mess of the target. The Thor
operator has use of a thermal sight, making the system useful at night.
The missiles have a max range of seven kilometers. However, the laser
is degraded by some kinds of weather (rain and fog, where the water
droplets break up the laser beam). The four missile turret is usually
backed up by twelve more missiles carried on the vehicle.
the big thing with Thor is that, in addition to being lethal against
helicopters and low flying aircraft, it can also take out bunkers,
buildings and armored vehicles.