Nexter/Thales (GIAT/Thomson-CSF) Shahine SP surface-to-air missile system

Land-based forces face a threat of air-launched attack comparable to that faced by sea-based forces, and have historically responded in a similar fashion with towed and self-propelled cannon equipments to tackle lower-grade threats against infantry and logistical troops, and a judicious blend of man-portable and self-propelled surface-to-air missile systems to tackle higher-grade threats against mechanised and armoured forces.

In 1975 Saudi Arabia ordered a gun-armed AA vehicle, the AMX-30 SA, based on the chassis of the AMX-30 main battle tank. At the same time the Saudis ordered a missile-armed counterpart, now designated as the Nexter/Thales Shahine self-propelled surface-to-air missile system. This is based on the same Nexter (originally GIAT) AMX-30 chassis but, given the importance of the missile and radar systems, the prime contractor is the electronics giant Thales (originally Thomson-CSF). Matra (now EADS) was subcontracted for the R.460 missile, which is essentially an upgraded version of the R.440 used in the Crotale systems. The standard Shahine firing battery comprises one acquisition vehicle and four missile vehicles, all using a modified AMX-30S chassis to ensure commonality of parts and combat mobility with Saudi Arabia’s fleet of AMX-30S main battle tanks. The acquisition unit weighs 32700 kg (72,090 lb) and is tasked with surveillance, target detection and interrogation using a pulse-Doppler radar operating in E-band for the detection of targets out to a range of 18500 m (20,230 yards). The system possesses a moving target indication facility plus an SN1050 digital information-processing and threat-evaluation subsystem, allowing the simultaneous registration of 40 targets. The computer system handles threat prioritisation on an automatic basis, and the 18 highest-threat targets are handled simultaneously. The acquisition unit also possesses a turret-mounted TV system, independent of but concentric with the radar. This allows the acquisition unit to monitor the position of the battery’s firing units, and also to fall back on an optronic system in the event that the radar fails or is jammed. Data are passed to the firing units by the inter-vehicle and positioning data-link, a J-band microwave system with minimum and maximum ranges of 500 and 4000 m (545 and 4,375 yards).

The missile firing unit is similar to that of the Crotale system. There is a vertical bank of three missile container/launchers on an elevating mounting on each side of the central pedestal, which can turn through 360°. The pedestal accommodates the drum-like antennae of the J-band monopulse target-acquisition and missile-guidance radar. Initial target data are received by the appropriate firing unit over the microwave data-link, allowing the firing unit’s target-acquisition radar to pick up the target as soon as it enters the radar’s 17000-m (18,590-yard) search range. The firing unit’s onboard fire-control system uses radar data to generate a fire-control solution, and automatically fires one or two missiles as soon as the target is within range. The missiles are automatically gathered by means of an infra-red system, and are thereafter fully guided to the target. The firing unit also possesses a back-up TV system for use in the event of radar failure or jamming. The system is fully integrated into the firing unit’s fire-control system, and provides target- and missile-tracking capabilities. Missiles are replaced from the battery’s stocks by means of a crane-equipped reload vehicle.

The Shahine can also be installed on the P6R 6×6 wheeled vehicle, and was further developed as a mobile shelter-mounted installation, the Shahine ATTS (Air-Transportable Towed System) using a three-axle semi-trailer.

In recent years the system has been upgraded to Shahine 2 standard with modest but useful improvements. The range of the main search radar is increased by 1000 m (1,095 yards) to 19500 m (21,325 yards); the missile has been provided with alternative radar and IR proximity fuses; and a revised SHADL (SHAhine Data-Link) has been introduced to allow the system to be linked with higher-level command structures. This last is generally the Litton TSQ-73 command and control centre, which is used by the United States, other NATO countries and some favoured export customers. The complete unit is accommodated in an S-280 shelter, transportable by aircraft, helicopter or truck. The system is linked to locally-available 2D or 3D radars, and the use of a GYK-12 digital computer provides real-time threat analysis and decision-making for a number of interlinked firing units. Shahine was also used as the basis of the Thomson-CSF/Vought Liberty self-propelled surface-to-air missile/twin 25-mm AA gun system proposed to meet the LOS-FH (Line of Sight – Forward Heavy) component of the US Army’s FAAD requirement, won late in 1987 by the Oerlikon-Bührle/Martin Marietta ADATS package. Initial development of the Liberty system centred on a revised sensor and fire-control package, adding an optronic unit (FLIR and TV) for simultaneous tracking of the target and intercepting missile(s). The capability of this system was validated in trials that witnessed the successful nocturnal tracking and interception, at a range of more than 6000 m (6,560 yards), of a drone flying at low level and at a speed of more than 900 km/h (559 mph). Plans called for the use of an M1 Abrams main battle tank chassis as the basis for the installation of a new armoured turret accommodating the electronics and armament, the latter increased to 12 R.460 missiles in the proposed initial production version. The turret would have been fitted with the new Griffon search radar, the Shahine/Liberty upgraded tracking system, two McDonnell Douglas M242 Bushmaster 25-mm cannon and, ultimately, two pods each containing six Vought/Thomson-CSF VT-1 SAMs.

The TRS 2630 Griffon radar is capable of detecting a fixed-wing aircraft at 18000 m (19,685 yards) and a hovering helicopter at 8000 m (8,750 yards). The antenna is a rectangular unit located above the rear of the turret for 360° search coverage, and can be lowered to the horizontal position to reduce the vehicle’s travelling height. The M242 is a powerful cannon already in large-scale use, and fires ammunition of the standard M790 series (M791 APDS, M792 HEI and M793 TP). The M791 round is 8.7 in (221 mm) long and weighs 16.12 oz (457 g), firing its 4.7-oz (133-g) projectile with a muzzle velocity of 4,415 ft (1346 m) per second; the M792 and M793 rounds are each 8.58 in (218 mm) long and weigh 17.35 oz (493 g), firing their 6.53-oz (185-g) projectiles (the former containing 1.06 oz/30 g of PBXN-5/aluminium explosive, and the latter solid shot) with a muzzle velocity of 3,610 ft (1100 m) per second. Like the search radar antenna, the two cannon on the turret top were intended to hinge down to reduce the vehicle’s travelling height. The VT-1 missiles were to be carried in elevating launchers on the turret sides, each launcher unit accommodating two vertical rows of three missiles. The missile was a combined development by Vought and Thomson-CSF with a length of 2290 m (7.51 ft) and a diameter of 165 mm (6.5 in), a warhead detonated by radar proximity fuse, a cruciform of fold-out rear fins and a maximum speed of Mach 3.5. A typical maximum engagement range of 10000 m (10,935 yards) was envisaged, a range of 8000 m being attained in 10 seconds. Reload rounds were to have been carried in six-round packs for rapid resupply by a special crane vehicle. As befitted a vehicle designed for continued capability in the front line of an advanced-technology battlefield, the Liberty’s armoured hull and turret would have been complemented by armour protection for the tracking radar and missiles.


Finland (Liberty variant chosen in 1988) & Saudi Arabia (Shahine and Shahine ATTS)



Type: tracked self-propelled point defence tactical SAM system

Crew: 3 (driver, commander and operator)

Combat weight: 38800 kg (85,538 lb)

Dimensions: length 6.59 m (21.62 ft)

Armament system: six ready-to-fire R.460 SAMs mounted three on each side of the electrically powered turret/radar unit

Armour: welded steel

Powerplant: one 462-kW (620-hp) Hispano-Suiza HS 110 multi-fuel engine with 970 litres (213.4 Imp gal) of fuel

Performance: speed, road 65 km/h (40.4 mph); range, road 600 km (373 miles); fording 2.2 m (7.2 ft) with preparation; gradient 60%; side slope 30%; vertical obstacle 0.93 m (36.6 in); trench 2.9 m (9.5 ft); ground clearance 0.45 m (17.7 in)