Crotale SAM

The Crotale (Rattlesnake) 4 x 4 wheeled Air Defense Vehicle (ADV) system was originally designed to meet a South African requirement; the development cost was shared 85% by South Africa and 15% by France. This version, called the Cactus, eventually equipped three anti-aircraft batteries. Further work on the system has resulted in sales to several other countries as well as adoption by the French Army.

The Crotale P4R vehicles are fielded in two forms, the Acquisition and Control Unit (ACU) and the missile launch vehicle, also known as the firing unit. Both have the same chassis, suspension, drive train, and armored hull. The P4R has an unusual power transmission system, similar to that in a diesel-electric locomotive. The internal combustion engine is housed in the rear of the hull and drives an alternator. (In most P4Rs, the engine is a Hotchkiss gasoline engine. P4Rs operated by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have had the Hotchkiss engine replaced by Badouin's 6F11 ST diesel engine).

The alternator's output is then rectified and directed to DC motors that drive the four wheels through reduction gearing. The suspension is hydro-pneumatic. During operation, the vehicles are raised on three hydraulic firing jacks, one located behind each front wheel, the third in the rear.

The ACU carries an E-band pulse-Doppler surveillance and Acquisition radar and an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogator. The ACU also has a SN 1050 digital computer capable of tracking 30 targets, identifying the twelve most threatening ones, and passing that information through a digital data link to up to three missile launch vehicles. The P4R 1000/2000/3000 series vehicles are linked physically by cable that can extend up to 0.5 mi. (0.8 km). The 4000 and 5000 series vehicles have an LIVH radio link through a telescoping mast; ACU and launch vehicle can then be up to 1.9 mi. (3 km) apart.

The launch vehicle is fitted with a four-round launcher and a J-band monopulse tracking radar with a circular parabolic reflector. The radar can track one target and guide two missiles using a differential angle-error measurement technique that is said to be very accurate. A TV tracking system can be used if the radar is jammed. The system is ready to fire 6.5 seconds after target detection and can fire a missile every 2.5 seconds. When the missile is launched, it is gathered onto its initial flight path by a combination of Infrared (IR) tracking of the motor and radar tracking of the missile's transponders. Update commands are transmitted to the missile by the I-band command transmitter.

The Crotale missile is packaged in its launch container at the factory. It has a conventional High Explosive (HE) warhead with a lethal radius of approx. 26 ft (8 m). Hit probability is claimed to be at least 80%. No spare missiles are carried on the launch vehicle. Reload rounds are brought up by truck and transferred by crane. A well-trained crew of three can load four missiles in about two minutes.

Initial operational capability in 1971 in South Africa, in 1973 in Libya. In production and in service in France and in at least eleven other countries (not all users have been publicly identified). 6,600 R440 missiles were produced for all user countries by the beginning of 1994.

Current marketing efforts for the Crotale system now center around promoting the Crotale NG (New Generation) low altitude missile system (see separate entry).

Prime contractor is Thomson-CSF, Bagneux, France; Missile manufactured by Matra, Velizy, France.


 Combat weight
      ACU                 27,827 lb. (12,620 kg)
      launch vehicle      32,965 lb. (14,950 kg)
      hull length         20 ft  5 in (6.22 m)
      width                8 ft  9 in (2.72 m)
        hull (both)        6 ft  4 in (1.93 m)
          ACU             10 ft       (3.05 m)
          launch vehicle  11 ft 11 in (3.41 m)
      wheelbase           11 ft 10 in (3.60 m)
      ground clearance
        travelling              17.7 in (450 mm)
        max on jacks            25.8 in (656 mm)
      diesel-electric     Hotchkiss gasoline engine in
                          most units
                          Badouin 6F11 ST 204-bhp diesel
                          engine in UAE and Qatar vehicles
      speed               43.5 mph (70 km/h)
      range               372 mi. (600 km)
      obstacle, vertical       12 in (0.30 m)
                fording   2 ft  3 in (0.68 m)
        at  1.2 mph (2 km/h)
        at 15.5 mph (25 km/h)
      missile             185 lb. (84 kg)
      warhead              33 lb. (15 kg)
      configuration       long, pointed cylinder
                          cruciform steerable foreplanes
                          near nose indexed in line with
                          cruciform, "cropped delta"
                          mainplanes at tail
      length              9 ft 7 3/4 in (2.94 m)
      diameter                    6.2 in (160 mm)
      wing span           1 ft 9 1/4 in (540 mm)
      SNPE Lens 10,692-lb. (4,850-kg) thrust solid-
      propellant motor burning for 2.3 seconds.
      speed               Mach 2.3
        acceleration      2.3 sec to Mach 2.3
        max engagement
          target moving at
             97 kts (112 mph; 180 km/h)
                          5.9 nm (6.8 mi.; 11 km)
            487 kts (560 mph; 902 km/h)
                          5.4 nm (6.2 mi.; 10 km)
        max crossing range
          target moving at 390 kts (449 mph; 723 km/h)
                          3.2 nm (3.7 mi.; 6 km)
        minimum range     1,640 ft (500 m)
        engagement altitude
          minimum            49 ft (    15 m)
          maximum         16,404 ft (5,000 m)
 Warhead                  HE focalized fragmentation
 Sensors/Fire Control
      ACU  Thomson-CSF Mirador IV E-band pulse-Doppler
      max range    10 nm (11.5 mi.; 18.5 km)
      launch vehicle  Thomson-CSF J-band monopulse radar
                        max range  8.6 nm (10 mi.; 16 km)
                      TV tracker
                        max range  7.6 nm (8.7 mi.; 14 km)
      missile  IR proximity fuze (armed when missile is
      within 1,150 ft/350 m of target) and contact fuze
 Crew  3 in each vehicle
      4 x 4 (4 wheels driving, 2 wheels steering), Messier
      hydro-pneumatic suspension, 3 hydraulic jacks
      adjustable to 5 heights from 6-25.8 in (156-656 mm)
      armor  3-5 mm

5 variants of the basic 2-unit P4R design have been produced

        series            production start
        1000                  1969
        2000                  1973
        3000                  1975
        4000                  1983
        5000                  1985

4000 series introduced the LIVH radio data link in place of the earlier cable data link which increases the distance between the launcher and the Acquisition and Control Unit upto 3000m. Pakistan uses two batteries of this upgraded version.

5000 series can be fitted with 2 additional SATCP Mistral short-range SAMs, 1 on each side of the 4-round launcher.

Shahine I: 60 Crotale launchers on P4R vehicles delivered to the Royal Saudi Army under the 1981 Palmier program. In 1990, France and Saudi Arabia agreed to a 2.2 billion- Franc upgrade program to bring the sensors and control systems up to Shahine II standard. Shahine II 6-round Crotale launcher on modified AMX-30 tank chassis. Upgrade of Crotale missile and radars. See separatedatabase entry. Naval Crotale Shipboard SAM system using similarmissile. See separate database entry. Crotale New Generation (NG) All-weather version with co-located multi-sensor search and tracking system and missile launchers; see separate database entry. Chinese FM-80 Shelter-mounted, land based missile system similar in concept to Crotale and Naval Crotale. Displayed in November 1988 at ASIANDEX exhibition in Beijing, China.

The Crotale vehicles are relatively large 4 x 4s with an unusual powertrain that does not appear to have a high power-to-weight ratio. Unlike most other ADVs, the design is not derived from an earlier armored personnel carrier or armored car. The result is a unique response to the light ADV requirement that has been widely exported.