In November 2012, the Royal Thai Army signed a contract with Thales UK to become the STARStreak air defence missile’s 3rd customer, after Britain and South Africa. Introduced in 1997, the dual-stage High Velocity Missile flies at Mach 3+. Its uses laser guidance to home in on fast-flying aircraft, pop-up helicopters, or UAVs, then shreds them with 3 individually-guided hit-to-kill projectiles. Numbers and amounts aren’t specified, beyond a “multi-million pound” deal, but the number of 3-missile Lightweight Multiple Launchers (LML) is probably relatively low.
The STARStreak system’s combination of extreme speed, laser guidance approach, kill method, and low maintenance costs offers a number of advantages over peer systems like the American Stinger, French Mistral, and Russian SA-18. The flip side is that its manual all-the-way guidance approach places a premium on operator training. That can be a disadvantage in some quarters, and the firm’s natural customer set was pre-empted by competitors who introduced their wares during the Cold War. Interest in these weapons is slowly picking up again, and Thales says that STARStreak/LML’s high profile deployment at the London 2012 Olympics “has led to increased interest in the system around the world.”