British Army - Artillery - Rapier (FS 'C') - a6a10 - Armed Forces



The Rapier system provides area 24 hour through cloud, Low Level Air Defence (LLAD) over the battlefield.

The Rapier system provides area 24 hour through cloud, Low Level Air Defence (LLAD) over the battlefield.

Rapier Field standard C (FSC) incorporates a range of technological improvements over its predecessor including an advanced three dimensional radar tracker acquisition system designed by Plessey. The towed system launcher mounts eight missiles (able to fire two simultaneously) which are manufactured in two warhead versions. One of these is a proximity explosive round and the other a kinetic energy round. The total cost of the Rapier (FSC) programme was £1,886 million.

The UK’s future Rapier air defence capability will be 16 Regiment Royal Artillery (North Luffenham) and the capability of 16 Regiment is being enhanced by the creation of a fourth battery. The possible configuration of 16 Regiment on mobilisation will then be four batteries each of two troops with three fire units per troop. In July 2004 the MoD announced the disbandment of the RAF Regiment Rapier squadrons.

The Rapier air defence system developed by MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics, UK). Is in service with the British Army utilising the Blindfire tracking radar and the Dagger surveillance radar.

The Rapier missile is capable of engaging supersonic, low level, high manoeuvrability aircraft and can be towed behind medium size vehicles and Armoured Personnel Carriers. It is air-portable by transport aircraft or helicopters.

A new Air Defence Command and Control System, ADC4I, is to be developed for the UK Ministry of Defence Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) programme Phase I. The system will integrate Rapier FSC and the Starstreak air defence missile system to provide a network enabled capability. Phase 2 will involve the upgrading of the missile systems.


The firing unit holds eight ready-to-fire missiles. The missiles are mounted on launcher rails on the walls of a rotatable turret. A full reload is carried out manually in 2 mins and requires no lifting aids. The Rapier Mk 2 missile is equipped with a fragmentation high explosive warhead from BAE Systems RO Defence and is fitted with a multi-mode laser proximity fuse. The missile's propulsion system is a two stage enhanced solid-propellant rocket motor from Roxel (UK Rocket Motors), formerly BAE Systems RO, Rocket Motors Division. The guidance is automatic infrared and radar command to line of sight.


The Dagger target acquisition and surveillance radar is a multi-beam high resolution 3D radar supplied by Alenia Marconi Systems. The radar is a frequency agile 3D pulse Doppler radar operating in J-band, with scan rate of 60 or 30rpm. The maximum detection range of the radar is in excess of 15km. An optional range of 32km is available. The maximum elevation is 5km. The system has the processing capacity to detect more than 75 threats per second. The radar provides bearing data and threat assessment from a Cossor Mark 10 or 12 IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system. The signal processing system incorporates clutter rejection algorithms and is also resistant to electronic countermeasures. A high elevation guard beam automatically switches off the transmissions when the presence of an anti-radiation missile is detected.

The Blindfire tracking radar, supplied by Alenia Marconi Systems, is a differential monopulse frequency agile radar operating at F-band which provides fully automatic all-weather engagement. The output is sufficiently powerful to burn through most jamming signals and the radar uses advanced frequency management techniques to evade jamming and other hostile electronic countermeasures. The system incorporates a self-surveillance reversionary mode of operation. A dedicated missile command link provides dual firing capability.

The electro-optic tracking device, a passive infra-red electro-optic sensor, is mounted on the top of the turret in a spherical housing and is controlled by an operator at a weapon control terminal. The tracking device can be used in scanning mode to provide passive target detection and acquisition in radar-silent operations. Raytheon Systems Limited was awarded a contract to supply all the UK Army’s Rapier FSC systems with the SIFF (Successor Identification Friend or Foe).


When the surveillance radar detects and acquires a target, the bearing data is downloaded to the tracking radar and the launcher, which then automatically align to the target bearing. The target is acquired on the optical tracking system. When the surveillance radar has confirmed that the target is hostile the missile is launched. The missile is guided towards the target at speed in excess of Mach 2.5 by passive infra-red line of sight and active command to radar line of sight. The automatic reaction time is less than 5s and a second target engagement takes less than 3s.

Rapier in all of its versions has now been sold to the armed forces of at least 14 nations. We believe that sales have amounted to over 25,000 missiles, 600 launchers and about 350 radars.

Future plans: The MoD plans to meet the future Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) requirement with 24 x Rapier fire units and 84 x high velocity missile launchers. Rapier will be deployed by the Army, with the RAF Regiment relinquishing the role. GBAD will be commanded by a new joint headquarters within the RAF command structure at RAF High Wycombe.


RAPIER Specifications

24 fire units in Service


Semi-automatic line of sight (SACLOS)

Missile length


Missile diameter




Warhead High Explosive

Missile speed

Mach 2+

Maximum range


Launch weight


Fire unit height


Fire unit weight


Radar height (in action)


Radar weight 1,186kg
Radar Range 16kms
Optical Tracker Height 1.54m
Optical Tracker Weight 119kg
Generator Weight 243kg
Generator Height 0.91m

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