Air Defense: Multi-Function Missiles


September 25, 2005: 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 desperation.)

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.

But 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.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close