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Man-portable air defense missile system

Mistral missile

The Mistral air defense missile has a high kill probability

Entered service 1988
Missile length 1.86 m
Missile diameter 0.09 m
Fin span 0.18 m
Missile weight 18.7 kg
Missile weight in container 21.4 kg
Weight with launcher 41 kg
Warhead weight 3 kg
Warhead type High Explosive
Range of fire 6 km
Altitude of fire 3 km
Guidance Infrared homing


   The Mistral is a short-range air defense weapon missile system. It was designed and manufactured in France by Matra BAE Dynamics (now MBDA). It features a lightweight man portable launcher, which can be operated by a single soldier. The Mistral SAM can also be launched from armored vehicles, ships and helicopters. More than 17 000 missiles have been produced. The Mistral is used in around 25 countries.

   The Mistral Man-Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) consists of a missile in launching canister, optical sighting device, identification friend-or-foe interrogator system, infrared sight, and pedestal mount. All of these components are carried by a team of 2 soldiers.

   The Mistral missile is a fire-and-forget type weapon with a high technology infrared homing seeker, which is fully autonomous after firing. The missile is lightweight and is very accurate. Maximum altitude is 3 000 m at a maximum speed of 930 m/s. The homing head has high sensitivity due to the incorporation of matrix multiplier unit picking up infrared radiation in the 3-5 micron range.

   The missile has a 3 kg High Explosive (HE) warhead with high density tungsten balls for increased damage. It uses a laser proximity detonation mechanism, that reduces the chance of premature detonation. The missile also has a gyro-based proportional navigation, that rejects flares. The seeker of Mistral also incorporates a narrow field of view, thereby rejecting decoys interference.

   Propulsion system of the missile includes a booster and a sustainer motors. After leaving the canister the booster gives missile an initial velocity of 40 m/s. Then the sustainer motor kicks in, increasing the missile speed to the maximum.

   The identification friend-or-foe interrogator is used to determine if the incoming aircraft is friend or foe.

   The Mistral MANPADS has a high kill probability.  After firing more than 3 700 missiles of all variants during training it has a success rate of 92-95%. This missile also has increased maneuverability (30G) at extreme speed. This air defense system also boasts increased flexibility during day and night and is deployable in standalone or in coordinated mode. The Mistral is operable in severe weather conditions.




   ALAMO is a Mistral missile mount, used on light vehicles;

   ALBI is a mount with 2 Mistral missiles. It is used on wheeled, or lightly armored vehicles;

   ATLAS is an improved ground-based mount with 2 Mistral missiles;

   SANTAL is a turret for armored vehicles with 6 Mistral missiles;

   ATAM is an air-to-air version of Mistral, intended for helicopters and aircraft;

   SADRAL is a naval automated weapon system with 6 Mistral missiles. It is fitted with TV camera and FLIR-based optics for targeting. The operator can easily target enemy aircraft. Missiles are accurate and avoid flares;

   Simbad is a naval pedestal mount with 2 missiles. This system used on ships. The Simbad RC is the remotely-controlled version;

   Tetral is a remotelly-controlled naval mount with 4 missiles. It uses newer Mistral 2-missiles. This system has a thermal camera, which gives it day and night capability;

   PMMC is a version of Mistral MANPADS or ATLAS mount with added radar and fire control system;

   Mistral-2 is an improved missile that is currently in production. It was first publicly revealed in 2000. Production commenced during the same year. The Mistral-2 has extended maximum range and improved maneuverability. The missile is fully digital. It can also intercept helicopters with reduced IR signature. The Mistral-2 missile is compatible with first generation Mistral launchers;

   Aspic is a firing post on a pedestal mount with 4 missiles. It uses newer Mistral-2 missiles. This mount is designed for installation on wheeled or tracked vehicles. The system can be operated by a single gunner.


Rakesh Nair

   Article by RAKESH NAIR

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Mistral missile

Mistral missile

Mistral missile

Mistral missile

Mistral missile

Mistral missile

Mistral missile

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