MISTRAL infrared homing man-portable air-defense system

The development of the French short-range universal missile Mistral began in the late 70s by Matra. Several basic versions of the rocket have been created:

MISTRAL infrared homing man-portable air-defense system
Photo: Wikipedia
  • MANPADS: Basic Mistral missile used with a man-portable launch unit, manually operated.
  • ALAMO: Mistral missile mount with single missile, used on light vehicles, manually operated.
  • ALBI: Mounting system with 2 Mistral missiles. It is used on wheeled, or lightly armored vehicles, manually operated.
  • ATLAS: Improved ground or vehicle based mount with 2 Mistral missiles, manually operated.
  • ATLAS RC: Further development of ATLAS system, remotely operated.
  • ASPIC: Mounting for light vehicle with 4 Mistral missiles, remotely operated.
  • MPCV: Turret for light vehicle with 4 Mistral missiles and single cannon or heavy machinegun, automatic fire control with EO system.
  • PAMELA: Mistral missile mount with single missile, used on VLRA or – SANTAL: Turret for armored vehicles with 6 Mistral missiles, automatic fire control with search radar.
  • SIMBAD: Mistral missile mount system with 2 missiles, manually operated.
  • SIMBAD RC: Development of regular SIMBAD system, remotely operated.
  • TETRAL: Mounting system with 4 Mistral missiles, automatic fire control with FCR or EO system.
  • SADRAL: Mount with 6 Mistral missiles, automatic fire control with FCR or EO system.
  • SIGMA: Combination of 25 or 30mm autocannon and 3 Mistral missiles, automatic fire control with FCR or EO system.
  • SAKO M85 Mistral: Naval turret with 6 Mistral missiles based on Finland SAKO 23 M85, remotely operated.
  • ATAM: Helicopter version used as an air-to-air weapon with 2 missiles on each module.

Short story

During the development of the missile, the following requirements were imposed: one missile for all variants, independence of the method of launch, and minimum maintenance. Full-scale work on the SATCP variant began in 1980. From 1986 to 1988, the French army conducted military tests, which culminated in the acceptance of the armament complex 1988.

In 1986, a contract was signed to create an aviation version of the missile for the use of helicopters. This variant was originally called HATCP [Helicopter-Air Tres Courtre Portee] but was later renamed ATAM [Air-to-Air Mistral]. The first launches of ATAM missiles were made by a Gazelle helicopter in 1990.

MISTRAL infrared homing man-portable air-defense system
Photo: Wikipedia


Infrared missile targeting system. A similar CH is installed on the Magic-2 SD. But CH Mistal has a heightened sensitivity that allows it to detect low-IR targets, such as helicopters, up to four kilometers away. The targeting system is equipped with a signal digital processor that shields thermal spots and the thermal background of the earth. GOS is located under a transparent hexagonal pyramidal fairing, similar to the fairing of the English UR Firestreak.

Immediately behind the GOS compartment, there are four small rectangular steering surfaces and four stabilizers in the tail section. Stabilizers and rudders are produced after the rocket leaves the TPK. A single-use transport and launch container weigh 3 kilograms. The container has drop-down doors to avoid damaging the finder during launch.

Ukraine gets Norwegian Mistral VSHORAD - 800 m/s, 6 km range
Photo credit: Regjeringen.no


ATAM is equipped with an explosive warhead with tungsten balls as percussion elements. The fuse is laser and contact, protected from triggering by trees and the water surface.

Engine and speed

The rocket engine is a two-stage solid fuel with six nozzles, providing stabilizing rotation at a speed of 10 revolutions per second. Later engine models have an embossed nozzle to achieve the same effect. The accelerator engine burns while still inside the TPK, accelerating the rocket to a speed of 40 m / s. At a distance of 15 meters from the helicopter, a marching engine is launched, accelerating the rocket to a speed of 800 m/s [2.5 M]. The body of the engine is made of Kevlar, similar to the rocket engine Super 530F.

Operating modes

  • Autonomous – aiming is done with the help of a simple collimator sight and provides shooting along the longitudinal axis of the helicopter
  • Integrated – aiming is performed using a gyro-stabilized sight and allows shooting at targets at an angle to the longitudinal axis of the helicopter

ATAM may receive targeting from the Thomson-CSF helmet mounting system or from cockpit sights or from the on-board SFIM APX M334 targeting system of the HOT anti-tank complex.

The coolant tank and power supplies are located on a standard NATO 356 mm double outdoor installation.

Technical characteristics

Length, m1.8
Diameter, mm90
Span, m0.18
Starting weight, kg18
Warhead3 kg, high explosive + tungsten balls
Fuselaser + contact
Guidance systeminfrared
Range, km5
Max. target height, km3
Speed, m/s, (M)800 (2.5)
Carrier helicopterSA 342M Gazelle, Dauphin Panther, A129 Mangusta,
Ecureuil/Fennec, AH-64 Apache, Eurocopter Tiger


MISTRAL infrared homing man-portable air-defense system is in service in Austria, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Georgia, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela.


Norwegian Mistral VSHORAD misisle system donated to Ukraine was mounted on a pickup truck. The whole system is simply locked to the floor of the pickup load compartment by welding or drilling bolts.

Ukraine puts Norwegian naval Mistral VSHORAD on off-road vehicles
Photo: YouTube


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