A video that has surfaced on social media shows a Russian attack helicopter being brought down in eastern Ukraine by a UK-made anti-aircraft missile, Business Insider reported.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allied countries have extended their support to Ukraine in its armed conflict with Russia that began over a month ago. So far, the support has included the supply of arms, such as the Switchblade drones that were announced by the U.S. last month.
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The anti-aircraft missile in the video is reportedly the Starstreak high-velocity missile system as was confirmed by the UK Ministry of Defence to The London Times.
Developed by Thales Air Defense, this man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS) has been operational with the British forces since 1997 and has a range of around four miles.
The missile is transported and launched from a sealed tube which is connected to an aiming unit. When the operator fires the missile, the first stage is ignited to launch the weapon from its tube. It, however, burns out, within the tube, to protect the operator. When the missile is about 13 feet away from the launch site, the second motor is ignited which can take the missile to a velocity exceeding Mach 4, the fastest short-distance missile on the planet.
As the second motor approaches its burnout, three metal alloy darts weighing about 32 ounces are fired at high velocities. Each of these darts carries about 16 ounces of the explosive charge that detonates by delayed action.
Training Ukrainian troops
The delivery high accuracy hits on the targets, the aiming unit paints a two-dimensional matrix on the target that the missile follows. Given the complexity of the system, troops are first trained on a simulator and need to have achieved 1,000 successful hits before getting their hands on an actual weapon.
Since the conflict escalated rather quickly, Ukrainian soldiers had to be rapidly trained to use the system. U.K.'s Ministry of Defence, therefore, deployed a team of Starstreak operators and a training simulator to a neighboring country, where a batch of Ukrainian troops was trained and have now returned back to the front.
According to the Times, the system was deployed on the field only a week ago. The M-28 helicopter that was hit saw its tail being snipped by the Starstreak missile, breaking the aircraft into two, before it went down.