By Sangeeta Saxena
Selles Saint Denis/New Delhi. 18 October 2019. The same weapon on different platforms not only results into common stockpiling but also into financial advantage and enhanced operability. European missile major MBDA , has not only successfully completed integration of the Mistral ATAM system on the Dhruv helicopter and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), but has also given India’s flag ship manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) food for thought.
The Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) has made a pitch for the Navy’s requirement for 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) for which it is proposing to offer a naval variant of the Dhruv helicopter. And to ensure that weaponsiation for the Naval chopper fleet remains state-of- the –art, what better option than Mistral ATAM which is already integrated into the army version of Dhruv.
The armed variant of the HAL ALH, the Rudra is armed with the system based on two launchers each deploying two MBDA ATAMs. Given the wide range of roles that the Rudra is designed to undertake, ATAM will provide the helicopter’s crew with a weapon that is not only easy to use but one that can be operated in the whole flight envelope from nap-of-the-earth to 15,000ft and at flight speeds from hovering to up to 200 knots. The same system has successfully undergone integration on the LCH platform also manufactured by HAL.
MISTRAL ATAM is based on the MISTRAL missile with its fire-and-forget engagement mode, ease of operation and unrivalled kill probability. The system is based on two launchers, each bearing two missiles and can be connected to the helicopter’s combat system, when mounted on combat helicopters, or through simplified control equipment if installed on multi-purpose helicopters.
In both cases, it is characterised by simplicity of operation, a very low crew workload and a high level of performance. The system can be operated within the whole flight envelope of the launch helicopter, at speeds of up to 200 knots and at altitudes exceeding 15,000 ft.
MISTRAL ATAM ensures a large off-bore sight capability, together with the ability to aim the missile seeker very precisely at a given target. The missile has a shaped trajectory in order to intercept targets top-down or at long range, the crew can also select the proximity fuze mode. It has four ready-to-fire MISTRAL missiles, unlimited flight envelope, adaptable to any type of helicopter and are in full operational service.
MISTRAL ATAM is operated by the French Army Aviation on the Gazelle and is also in service on the Tiger attack helicopter.
With a weight of 18.7 kg, length of 1.86 m, diameter of 90 mm, maximum intercept range of 6.5 km and minimum intercept range of 500 m, Mistral ATAM is just appropriate for the operations Indian choppers would be undertaking, keeping the three fronts war theory in mind.
And these missiles get their teeth at one of the most secret sites at the heart of the Solognotes forests, between Orleans and Bourges, in the Selles-Saint-Denis factory in France, the pyrotechnic integration site of MBDA. In the middle of a forest and at the end of a country road coming from the small town, difficult to it is unimaginable that some of the most formidable missiles conceived in Europe are born here. And this is where the Mistral ATAM get their biting capability which is second to none.