The speed with which the missile itself then closes in on the target — up to 2,000 mph — gives it little chance of escape within a very brief engagement window, or ‘unmasking time.’ “Anything traveling at Mach 2.5 kinetically is going to have some serious impact,” Col. Taylor told The Times during a firepower demonstration in the United Kingdom. (The missile’s manufacturer, Thales UK, puts the Starstreak’s top speed at more than Mach 3).
Regardless, the Starstreak has ‘end-game’ speed in excess of typical MANPADS, like Russia’s prolific Strela family or the American FIM-92 Stinger, the latter of which has a typical maximum speed of around Mach 2.2.
Once they have penetrated the target, the darts also explode, each one carrying a fragmentation warhead. This approach is also said to reduce the risk of collateral damage, a consideration when using the weapon against ground targets.
As mentioned above, the types of targets the Starstreak was designed to defeat include lower-flying fixed-wing fighters and late unmasking helicopter targets — pop-up threats that offer little time to successfully engage. At the same time, the missile was tailored to have a longer range than comparable MANPADS, being able to hit targets out to 3.4 miles or more, a little longer than the 3 miles for the Stinger. The British Army credits the Starstreak with an engagement ceiling of 3,280 feet.