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MBDA Pitches Mistral For Indian VSHORAD Tender

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

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

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

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


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