Weapons and Kit

Ukraine: What is the STARStreak anti-air weapons system?

The STARStreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) is designed to counter threats from high-performance, low-flying aircraft and helicopters.

The Defence Secretary has told NATO counterparts the UK will provide high velocity anti-aircraft missile system Starstreak to Ukraine.

Ben Wallace initially said the decision to explore the "donation of Starstreak high velocity manned portable anti-air missiles" to Ukraine came after a request from the country, and the UK believes the weapons would "remain within the definition of defensive weapons".

But what is STARStreak and why does Ukraine need the weapons system?  

Operated by the Royal Artillery and Royal Marines, the STARStreak High Velocity Missile (HVM) is designed to counter threats from high-performance, low-flying aircraft and helicopters.

The missile can travel at more than three times the speed of sound and uses three dart-like projectiles, allowing multiple strikes on a target.

Watch: UK to send more anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, says Wallace.

It can be fired from the shoulder, a lightweight multiple launcher or from the Stormer armoured vehicle and there is no way of jamming STARStreak.

Manufacturer Thales has introduced improvements to STARStreak to increase its range beyond 7km and it has a laser beam guidance system that ensures the smallest and most difficult targets can be hit.

Why does Ukraine need STARStreak?

Earlier this month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with Western nations to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

This would see a zone imposed to prevent aircraft from attacking or carrying out surveillance over Ukraine and would mean NATO forces would, effectively, have the authority to shoot down any unauthorised aircraft above Ukraine.

However, Mr Wallace said enforcing one over Ukraine "would lead to a war against Russia across the whole of Europe".

When announcing the increased supply of anti-tank and potential anti-air weapons to Ukraine, Mr Wallace said the Government was "bound by the decision to supply defensive systems" and not escalate the war.

So providing the STARStreak would allow Ukraine to defend its skies against low-flying aircraft and attack helicopters without the UK, or any other NATO state, sending aircraft into theatre and risking a potential escalation with the alliance.