UK Availability Contracting: Starstreaks to the End
In 1997, Britain introduced a unique entry to the world of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. Its dual-stage Starstreak High Velocity Missile flies at Mach 4+, uses advanced laser-guidance to home in on fast-flying aircraft, pop-up helicopters, or UAVs, then uses a system of 3 individually-guided dart-like projectiles and warheads to shred any target they hit. Starstreak HVMs can be carried by Army and Royal Marines troops, fired from helicopters (ATASK), or fired from Stormer armored vehicles that mount multiple launchers (SP HVM).
The Starstreak HVM’s combination of extreme speed, guidance approach, and kill method is a significant advance over peer systems like the American Stinger, French Mistral, and Russian SA-18. The difference is that those peer systems were fielded many years earlier during the Cold War, and so entered widespread service around the world. A handful of Starstreaks were ordered by South Africa in 2002, but Britain remains the system’s only large-scale operator. In July 2004, the UK MoD announced that the number of Starstreak HVM units in the British Army would be reduced from 156 to 84 fire units. Those units will still need to be maintained.
Britain’s Defence Industrial Strategy places a premium on maintaining missile (“complex weapons”) expertise in the UK, and is undertaking a multi-faceted “Team Complex Weapons” procurement program to produce a number of future missile types for the UK’s armed forces. That strategy also stresses the virtue of fixed-price, through-life support contracts that deliver availability rates rather than hours worked bills.
A GBP 200 million Air Defence Availability Project (ADAPT) contract with Thales UK in Belfast, Northern Ireland addresses all of these trends, and is set to maintain the UK’s Starstreak systems for the next 13 years, until the weapons’ out of service date. The contract will support approximately 100 jobs at Thales UK, and is another through-life, fixed-fee contract with a specified level of weapon availability built in.
UK DE&S General Weapons Director, Rear Admiral Amjad Hussain:
“This support arrangement will reduce the cost of ownership of HVM while also providing the ability to transition from peacetime to planned or unplanned operations. [ADAPT] is fully consistent with the wider MOD initiative for the Complex Weapons sector and we are pleased to be entering into a long-term arrangement with one of our Team Complex Weapons players.”
Steve Hill, Vice President and Managing Director of Thales UK’s air systems division:
“The ADAPT contract is key to sustaining our current levels of employment and will provide us with an opportunity to move into the area of Through Life Capability Management – an area which is becoming increasingly important for defence contracting.”
Note that the UK MoD release states a 13 year contract, while Thales UK refers to end-of-life at the end of 2020. DID has chosen to rely on the UK MoD’s figure, which means removal from service at the end of 2021. See: UK MoD | Thales UK | Reuters.