The French defense company, MBDA, is offering its Mistral system for the INR 27,000 crore (USD 5.4 billion) Indian tender for Very Short Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) systems. The company’s Corporate Marketing Director, Daniel Petit, spoke to StratPost about their proposal for the tender for over 800 launchers and 5,000 missiles.
Designed from inception for tri-service requirements, Petit says the system on offer is the second generation Mistral, developed in the last decade. The system has already been selected for India’s Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), something which could be an advantage for the company, in terms of logistics and ordinance management. “It means same logistic, same training – it’s a key advantage,” he points out, saying, “The Indian armed forces have selected already the system for the helicopter (Advanced Light Helicopter – Dhruv). Mistral is going to be – again the same missile. I’m talking about ATAM – it’s the Air-To-Air-Mistral.”
A company statement says, ‘With Mistral having already won a competition to arm India’s ALH Dhruv helicopters, MBDA has also been keen to propose all the advantages that the missile offers as a ground-based air defense weapon’, calling the ‘supply logistics’, ‘service and maintenance benefits’ of a ‘multiple use missile’ to be ‘an added advantage’. The statement cites MBDA’s representative in India, Loïc Piedevache, as saying, “This could of course be a single Mistral production line in India for both the Dhruv and for the surface to air requirement should it be selected.”
Imagining a scenario of a combat aircraft threat, Petit says, “With this system you have the possibility to activate, lock on a target and in less than a few seconds you are able to press the button and the missile will do the job.”
“When I said the missile will do the job it means the gunner doesn’t have to aim the system on the target,” he emphasizes, saying, “The missile is able to engage the target immediately.”
Petit says that they’ve reached a success rate of ‘close to 98 percent’ after having ‘fired more than 6,000 missiles’. “By success rate, it is the number of targets destroyed – not technical (hits), I’m talking about target destruction – 98 percent,” he says.
Petit thinks the heat-seeking capability of the Mistral gives it advantages over other types of systems, like beam riders, upon which Saab’s RBS-70 offering is based. He says it might be difficult to engage small boats in rough seas with such a system. “Sometimes it is very difficult to aim or to lock on with a laser beam on the target. You can’t see it anymore,” he says.
He takes another example. “You engage a helicopter which is maneuvering at very low, close to the earth. Generally, the new generation of combat helicopter using pop-up maneuver to engage and fire anti-tank missile – to give an example – with this system you have time to lock on and engage the helicopter – you launch the missile. The flight format of this (Mistral) weapon system is not ballistic but the missile is making a maneuver like this,” he says, swinging his hand in a swaying motion, then adds, “The missile will continue to seek the target even if the helicopter is going down below a tree or below a hill – if you’re using beam-riding, you’re losing targets.”
The Mistral is a fire and forget, heat-seeking missile fitted with a ‘very heavy warhead’ weighing three kilograms, which Petit says is ‘quite heavy for this category of missile’. “At the same time it is fitted with impact and proximity fuse allowing the missile to be used against any type of target,” he says, explaining that the fuse allows the system to be used ‘against very low altitude, low flying targets’ and covers ‘all the spectrum for low altitude engagement against any air threat, including helicopter, combat aircraft, low flying cruise missiles, drones or bombs with engines’. The Mistral travels at a speed of Mach 2.5 and has a range beyond the Indian requirement of six kilometers.
MBDA says that the passive Infra Red seeker makes Mistral very hard to detect by the intended target and emphasizes that the fire-and-forget feature is vital ‘when more than one in-coming target has to be confronted’.
He says the Mistral can engage more than one target. “When having different firing posts, all the firing posts can be linked to the command post.” MBDA says it can also provide a mobile Mistral coordination post, MCP/IMCP to enable day and night coordination and monitoring of up to 12 various Mistral missile equipped ground based air defense units.
The company says the missile weighs 18.7kgs and its MANPADS system is easily portable by two operators, one carrying the missile and the other the firing unit. It also comes with an optional IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) interrogator, which ‘operates while the target is being tracked’.