The Shahine Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system was a French development of the "Crotale" SAM series, installing a six missile launcher unit and search/tracking system atop the chassis of the French AMX-30 Main Battle Tank (MBT) for service in the Saudi Arabian Army. The vehicle saw design work occur during the early 1970s through Thomson-CF with production commencing in 1980 and spanning until 1990. Service entry for the Shahine was during 1980 and, at one point, some seventeen mobile batteries featured the Shahine as their primary mobile air defense system. These Saudi vehicles were also present during the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War.
The AMX-30 MBT itself was produced in 3,571 examples and fought during the Gulf War. It was exported to various countries including Saudi Arabia. While no longer a premiere frontline MBT, the Saudi Army continues the AMX-30 legacy by their operation of Shahine SAM systems. Some ex-Saudi AMX-30 tanks were also sold off to Tunisia.
Two known variants of the Shahine have since emerged - the "Shahine 1" and "Shahine 2" which are also known as "Crotale 2000" and "Cortale 4000" respectively. The missile of choice is the R460 which represents a heavier, improved version of the original French Crotale missile with a range out to nearly 12 kilometers and against aerial targets 6 kilometers up. The missiles are carried in six individual, ready-to-fire cylinders with three tubes fitted to each side of the launcher unit. The vehicle's running gear is consistent with the AMX-30 tank and the trainable launcher unit sat atop the hull roof, replacing the original turret fitting. With this launcher given independent traverse and elevation function, it can engage at nearly all angles and does not require the hull to be turned into the direction of fire. The vehicle is driven by a Hispano-Suiza 110 series, 12-cylinder, diesel-fueled 690 horsepower engine and is also fitted with an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) which allows power for when the engine is shut down. 4 x smoke grenade dischargers allow for local screening of the vehicle. A typical Shahine operating crew is three and combat weights reach 85,000 lb. Performance specifications include a road speed of 40 mph with a road range out to 370 miles.
The complete Shahine fielding also includes the Shahine Acquisition Unit (AU) - an AMX-30-based vehicle with specialized equipment fitted that works in conjunction with the Shahine launcher vehicle. This model features a collapsible Doppler E/F-band search radar atop its hull. Various other transport and resupply vehicles accompany the Shahine launcher in action. Another related vehicle is the Shahine Air-Transportable Towed Shelter (ATTS) which features a towable six-wheeled carrier fitting the Shahine SAM launcher unit - doing away with the complexity and operating commitments of the tracked Shahine version.
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