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.