With reports coming in about Russian troops getting closer to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, the latter has been provided with weapons and military gear by several countries. The UK is considering sending Starstreak anti-aircraft weapons and “a small consignment” of Javelin anti-tank missiles to the war-torn country.
Speaking in Parliament on March 9, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told lawmakers, “In response to Ukrainian requests, the government has taken the decision to explore the donation of Starstreak high-velocity man-portable anti-air missiles.”
Starstreak is a high-velocity missile aimed to provide close air defense against conventional threats including helicopters, low-flying fixed-wing jets, and drones.
“We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons but will allow the defending force to better defend the skies,” Wallace said, highlighting Starstreak’s capabilities.
He said the Russians are “changing their tactics and so the Ukrainians need to too”, to help Ukraine forces tackle the Russian air force. In response to MPs’ questions about how long the supply decision would take, Wallace said, “We are in principle going to do it”. He recognized that the rockets would require training for the Ukrainian military. “How we are doing it [training] is sensitive”.
Wallace was pressed by both Labour and the Scottish National Party to supply the Starstreak and other missiles as soon as possible. Labour’s John Healey has urged for the supply decision to be made “as quickly as possible”. Stewart McDonald of the Scottish National Party (SNP) made a similar request.
“This is only still week two,” Healey noted. “Russia has such crushing firepower. Putin has such utter ruthlessness that we must expect more than one of his military objectives to be taken over the next few weeks.”
Wallace told lawmakers that Russia is now employing unguided bombs and that, with 95 percent of its military in Ukraine committed. Moscow is attempting to recruit private Russian soldiers from organizations such as the Wagner Group to fight alongside them.
He claimed that Russia had lost 285 tanks, 985 armored vehicles, 44 planes, 48 helicopters, and 109 artillery pieces, quoting Ukrainian estimates. He said that 11,000 Russian troops had been killed, but added that Ukrainian statistics were unconfirmed.
According to Wallace, the UK would continue to deliver NLAW short-range anti-tank weaponry. Ukraine has now received 3,615 units of the portable-missile system, roughly double the 2,000 previously reported, he said.
People in the south-eastern city of Mariupol had been “without power and water for almost a week”, while unguided bombs landed on Chernihiv, north-east of Kyiv, according to Wallace. Russian troops moved into Kyiv’s eastern Brovary district, attempting to encircle the capital.
Starstreak is a man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS) developed by Thales in Belfast. According to the manufacturer, the missiles are “designed to provide close air defense against conventional air threats such as fixed-wing fighters and late unmasking helicopter targets”.
Thales claims that Starstreak is a truly versatile missile that can be launched from land, sea and air platforms. It says that it can, therefore “be deployed quickly into operations and is easy to integrate into a force structure.”
The missile is the British army’s equivalent of the American Stinger ground-to-air missile. Stinger missiles have already been delivered to Ukraine by the US, Germany, and the Netherlands. They are laser-guided (as opposed to infrared used by Stingers) missiles with a range of 7 kilometers and are said to be difficult to jam.
As previously mentioned, Starstreak can take out helicopters, fighter jets flying at low altitudes, and drones. The weapon can also be mounted on vehicles.
The missiles have been with the British Army since 1997. South Africa and Indonesia also use these missiles.
The Starstreak can be assembled and is ready to shoot in just a few seconds. Clipping a targeting unit onto the missile canister is part of the firing preparation.
The multiple launcher employs three canistered missiles with clip-on equipment and a standard targeting mechanism. Three targets can be tackled in rapid succession without the need to reload. Starstreak systems were deployed on the top of apartment buildings near the London 2012 Olympics venue to thwart terror threats.