AS-30 Air-to-Surface Missile

As part of the initial contract, when the Mirage III aircraft arrived in South Africa in 1963, two air-to-air missile types were supplied for the intercept role and one air-to-surface missile type was supplied for the ground attack role.  The forerunner of the AS-30 was the smaller AS-20, and a number of these were supplied with inert warheads to be used as training missiles.  At that stage a single AS-30 missile cost R37 000-00 each and each pilot was only allowed to fire (and guide) one AS-20 per year and one AS-30 every two years.

Early production used visual guidance and a pitch-yaw joystick, as with the AS-20.  However, an improved version of the AS-30 was introduced in 1964, which eliminated the vibrating vanes and instead used four pop-out tailfins for guidance.  Approximately 3 870 AS-30 missiles were built and the users of this missile include France, Britain, West Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, India, and Peru.

The pilot of the launching aircraft had to see the target and fly straight at it.   12 km from the target, he pulled the trigger to launch the missile.  After 2 seconds of flight time the missile came into view and the pilot was able to send “up-down-left-right” signals to the missile by moving a small “joystick” in the cockpit.  The tele-command signals were transmitted to the missile and the pilot endeavoured to keep the missile between him and the target.  A brilliant light green flare, on the rear end of the missile, aided him in keeping the missile “on target”.  
When the missile struck the target, the nose contact, in the tip, sent an electrical signal to the fuse in the rear end of the warhead.  The detonation of the warhead by the fuse was either “instantaneous” or “delayed” by 14 milliseconds.  This was set before take off – according to the nature of the target.  On the “DELAYED” setting, the GP warhead could penetrate 50 mm of steel or 710 mm of concrete before exploding.  
The AS-30 missile equipment (joysticks, transmitters, pylons and launchers) for the Buccaneers arrived in 1969.  The Buccaneer could carry FOUR AS-30’s but it was decided to carry only two – on the outer wing stations.  The smoke and hydrochloric acid gas, given off by the missile’s booster motor, tended to cause aircraft engine “flame out” when the missile was launched from the inner wing station.

Twelve AS-30 GP missiles were used to attempt to sink the damaged oil tanker Wafra in 1971.  The first four missiles (with “Delay Fusing”) when through the ship and exploded in the water on the other side.  The other eight missiles were set to “Instantaneous” and did what they were supposed to do – WHEN THEY HIT THE SHIP.  The weather was poor, and the Buccaneer pilots were told to hit the ship just below the water-line, to rupture the buoyancy tanks and not the oil compartments.  This is likened to expecting a darts player to hit a pencil line at a distance of 80 metres.  The tanker was eventually sunk by depth charges dropped from a Shackleton.

The AS-30 was also used in anger during the Bush War when in 1981, four out of five radar stations at Cahama in Southern Angola were knocked out by six Buccaneers firing twelve AS-30 missiles.


Country of origin:  France
Manufactured as:  NORD AVIATION (Aerospaciale) AS-30
Role: Tactical Air-to-Surface Missile
Maximum range: 11 km
Length:  3,885 m
Body diameter: 0,342 m
Wingspan: 1 m
Launch Mass 520 kg
Warhead: 230 kg General Purpose, or 213 kg Semi (Armour) Piercing