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Short-range air defense missile system


The Crotale is one of the most successful air defense system ever built

Entered service 1972
Crew 3 men
Dimensions and weight
Weight ?
Length ?
Width ?
Height ?
Missile length 3 m
Missile diameter 0.55 m
Missile weight 84.5 kg
Warhead weight 15 kg
Warhead type HE-FRAG
Range of fire up to 12 km
Altitude of fire 5.5 km
Engine petrol / diesel
Engine power ?
Maximum road speed ~ 80 km/h
Range ~ 600 km
Gradient 60%
Side slope 30%
Vertical step ~ 0.5 m
Trench ~ 0.5 m
Fording ~ 0.8 m


   The Crotale (rattlesnake) short-range air defense missile system. The origins of this air defense system lie in South African order. In 1964 South Africa ordered Thomson-Houston (later Thomson-CSF and now Thales) to develop a point defense system. Development was mostly funded by South Africa, and partially by the French government. The system was developed during the late 1960s. These systems were delivered to South Africa between 1971 and 1973. It was locally named the Cactus. Soon after the French air force ordered this system for airfield defense, naming the system Crotale. It entered service in 1972. By 1978 a total of 20 batteries were delivered.

   The Crotale is one of the most successful SAM design ever built. This air defense system still evolves and remains in production for more than 40 years. A wide range of its variants have been built. It is in service with 15 countries.

   The Crotale is a point defense system, designed to protect high value targets, such as airfields, military bases, ammunition depots, and so on. The original design aim of the Crotale was to engage supersonic low-flying aircraft.

   The TELAR vehicle is based on a Thomson-Hotchkiss P4R 4x4 armored chassis. It carries 4 missiles and is fitted with engagement radar. It also has an optical aiming system. Armor of this vehicle provides protection against small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. The TELAR vehicle is operated by a crew of three. It is powered by a petrol or diesel engine, driving an alternator, which powers electrical motors driving the wheels. However mobility of this vehicle is rather limited. It was developed as a point defense system, rather than operate alongside land force maneuver elements. It takes about 5 minutes to launch missiles from travelling. There is also a towed variant, that is less mobile.

   A standard missile is 3 m long and weights 84.5 kg. It has a solid fuel rocket motor. It gives the missile a maximum speed of Mach 2.3 (750 m/s) and a range of 12 km. It can engage helicopters, aircraft, cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles and anti-radiation missiles. Minimum range of fire is about 500-700 m. It can reach targets at an altitude of 5.5 km. The missile has a 15 kg High-Explosive Fragmentation (HE-FRAG) warhead with contact and proximity fuses. A single missile has a hit probability of 80%. If two missiles are launched at the same target, hit probability is 96%.

   Crotale Acquisition and Coordination Unit (ACU) is based on the same Hotchkiss P4R 4x4 armored chassis. It is fitted with acquisition radar. This vehicle detects targets, tracks them, identifies targets, identifies weather it is friend or foe. The ACU can detect up to 30 targets and track 12 targets simultaneously. Detection range is 18.4 km. Tracking range is 17 km.

   A typical battery of the Crotale consists of two or three TELAR vehicle and one vehicle with acquisition radar. TELARs and acquisition and coordination unit are connected with cables. These are supported by a host of maintenance and support vehicles. It takes 2 minutes to reload all four missiles.

   The Crotale has been produced in a number of variants.




   Crotale 1000 Series. It is a baseline Crotale point defense system, base on the P4R 4x4 armored vehicle. There is also a towed version, for air defense of fixed sites. TELARS and ACU are linked by cables. It appeared in 1969;

   Crotale 2000 Series. It appeared in 1973. It has additional television channel, that resulted in enhanced acquisition and tracking;

   Crotale 3000 Series. It appeared in 1978. It has a further enhanced tracking capability by an added automatic television track capability;

   HQ-7, Chinese reverse engineered copy. In 1978-1979 China imported some of the Thomson-CSF Crotale systems for evaluation and reverse engineered them. First Chinese clone was produced for testing in 1983. Its production commenced in the late 1980s. Sometimes it is referred as Sino-Crotale;

   Shahab Tagheb, an Iranian short-range air defense missile system. It was revealed in 1999. It was developed with Chinese assistance and by transferring technology of the HQ-7;

   Shahine, version developed for Saudi Arabia. It appeared in 1980. In 1975 Saudi Arabia ordered a number of these missile systems. However the Shahine is based on AMX-30 tank chassis and has improved mobility and much better armor protection. Its main role was to provide fully mobile air defense for mechanized armored units;

   Crotale 4000 Series. Cable interconnections between units were replace by radio datalink. The TELARS can be located at a range of up to 3 km from acquisition and coordination unit. And up to 10 km between proximate ACU. Radar has improved electronic countermeasures;

   Crotale 5000 Series. It is a modernization of the French Crotale systems. It appeared in 1985. This system incorporates an optical tracker. It also has improved radar that has detection range of 18 km;

   Crotale NG (New Generation). It appeared in 1990. It is a much redesigned version of the basic Crotale. Missiles have a range of 11 km, maximum speed of Mach 3.5, lethal radius of 8 m. Also missiles are more maneuverable. Radar and fire control system were improved. The Crotale NG has the engagement and acquisition radars carried by the same unit, hence every single TELAR vehicle is capable of autonomous operation. It can be mounted on a towed 3-axle trailer or a range of different chassis;

   Crotale Mk.3 is a further evolution of Crotale NG. It appeared in 2008. Missile has been improved. It has a range of 16 km and can reach targets at an altitude of 9 km. The system has new surveillance radar.


Video of the Crotale short-range air defense missile system










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