Blowpipe

The Shorts Blowpipe is a man-portable surface-to-air missile that was in use with the British Army and Royal Marines from 1975. It was superseded by an interim design, Javelin, and later the greatly improved Starstreak.

Blowpipe
Class Manportable
Type Rocket Launcher
Manufacturer Thales Air Defence
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1975
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Afghanistan View
Argentina View
Canada View
Chile View
Ecuador View
Guatemala View
Israel View
Malaysia View
Nigeria View
Oman (Muscat) View
Portugal View
Qatar View
Thailand (Siam) View
United Arab Emirates View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Thales Air Defence View

Blowpipe was used by both sides during the Falklands War in 1982. With the targets being fast flying aircraft, flying low and using the ground to hide their approach, the Blowpipe operator had about 20 seconds to spot the target, align the unit and fire. Brigadier Julian Thompson compared using the weapon to "trying to shoot pheasants with a drainpipe". The official report stated that, of the 95 missiles fired by the British, only 9 managed to destroy their targets and all of these were slow flying planes and helicopters. A later report determined that only two kills could be attributed to Blowpipe: A British Harrier GR3 (XZ972) attacked by Argentine Army special forces (Commandos Company), and an Argentine Aermacchi MB-339 (0766 (4-A-114)) during the Battle of Goose Green.

Blowpipe was found to be particularly ineffective when used to engage a crossing target or to chase a target moving rapidly away from the operator. The poor performance led to it being withdrawn from UK service. In 1986 some of the mothballed units were sent clandestinely to equip the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The system again proved ineffective, and was eventually supplanted by the US Stinger missile. While Blowpipe was available on the international arms market and therefore its origins were open to speculation, the Stinger was restricted, which at the time indicated a more open acknowledgment of Western support for the Mujahideen. Blowpipe missile systems are still being found in weapon caches as recently as May 2012 in Afghanistan.

The Canadian military took Blowpipe from storage to give some protection to their naval contribution to the 1991 Gulf war, although sheer age had degraded the weapons, and nine out of 27 missiles tested misfired in some way.

Blowpipe saw more effective use in the Cenepa War of 1995 between Ecuador and Peru, where it was deployed mainly against Peruvian Mil Mi-17 and Mil Mi-18 helicopters.

Weight - 14.5 kg (missile in launch tube)

22 kg (complete system)

6.2 kg (launcher)

Length - 1.35 m

Diameter - 76 mm

Crew - 1

Effective range - 0.5 to 3.5 km

Warhead - Shaped charge

Warhead weight - 2.2 kg

Engine - Solid Rocket Motor

Speed - Mach 1.5

Guidance system - MCLOS system

End notes