An advanced air defence system, Sky Sabre, has been delivered by the MoD's Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) to the Royal Artillery (RA), replacing Rapier and propelling the British Army to the forefront of ground-based air defence missile technology.
Sky Sabre equipment.
The totally integrated system has been accepted into the RA arsenal, providing a step change in the force’s medium-range capability and, with it, unprecedented speed, accuracy, precision and target acquisition.
The new system is replacing Rapier, which recently entered its fifth decade of operation with UK Armed Forces.
Sky Sabre will be able to hit a tennis ball-sized object travelling at the speed of sound and 16 Regiment Royal Artillery (RA) is now accepting into service the first tranche of Sky Sabre and further procurements will be configured to operate in all parts of the globe.
Sky Sabre is composed of three main elements: Surface to Air Missile Centre (SAMOC) command and control – the ‘brain’; Giraffe Agile Mutlibeam (GAMB) radar – the sensor; and the Land Ceptor launcher and missile.
Rafael is responsible for supplying the SAMOC. SAAB supply the GAMB, which is already in-service with 49 Battery 7 Air Defence Group and MBDA supply Land Ceptor through their long-term enabling contract with MoD.
Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said: “Sky Sabre’s spearheading technology has significantly upgraded the protection of our forces from threats from the air. This cutting-edge of defence system is a clear demonstration of our warfighting capabilities to those who wish to do us harm.”
Sky Sabre has three key components expected to operate up to 15km apart in the battlespace:
A Giraffe Agile Multi Beam 3D medium-range surveillance radar that rotates 360 degrees on an extending mast and can scan out to 120km for threats.
A pioneering computer system linking up the radar and missiles sending them to their targets. It also provides ‘Link 16’, a tactical datalink allowing Sky Sabre to share its information with Royal Navy vessels, Royal Air Force systems and our allies providing full integration across UK Armed Forces and joint NATO operations.
At 99kg each, the Common Anti-Air Modular Missiles (CAMM) are double the weight of Rapier and have three times the range. They can reach speeds of 2,300mph eliminating fighter aircraft, drones and even laser-guided smart bombs. Eight missiles are mounted on the launcher, which fire in a unique multi-directional manner that significantly reduces its signature making it less of a target for adversaries. The launcher also re-arms in less than half the time of Rapier.
Commanding Officer of 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Lane, said: “We will be able to compete with our peers and take on some of the toughest adversaries. It gives us a capability we have not had before; this new missile system with its new launcher and world-class radar will absolutely put us at the forefront of ground-based air defence.”
Operational since 1970s, Rapier has seen service in Kuwait, the South Atlantic, and most visibly when it deployed to numerous London parks to combat any security threats during the 2012 Olympics.
Senior Training Officer, Major Tim Oakes said: “Sky Sabre is so accurate and agile that it is capable of hitting a tennis ball sized object travelling at the speed of sound. In fact, it can control the flight of 24 missiles simultaneously whilst in flight, guiding them to intercept 24 separate targets. It is an amazing capability.”
Dr Simon Dakin, DE&S Director Integrated Battlespace Operating Centre, said: “I am very proud that DE&S has played such a key role in delivering this world-class networked air defence capability to the British Army.
“Delivering Sky Sabre has been a complex, collaborative endeavour, working closely with the Army, Royal Air Force and weapons teams, together with international industrial partners – a great team achievement.”
Madeline Wild, Associate Defense Analyst at GlobalData, commented: “Given it is a year behind schedule, the Sky Sabre air defense system’s entry into service has been long awaited. However, the new system is worth the wait. It will pose far more of a deterrent than its predecessors and reinforce the continued military presence on the Falkland islands — though The MoD has been keen to stress the importance of Sky Sabre to global operations far beyond the contested islands.
“The Sky Sabre uses the common anti-air modular missile (CAMM) by MBDA, which is also used in the Royal Navy Sea Ceptor Surface-to-air missile on board its Type 23s and future Type 26 and 31 Frigates. This builds on a growing trend of communality between the various domains of missile production. This will enable domains to pool their development costs.
“The technical capabilities of Rapier’s replacement are impressive. The missile range is more than tripled, the rearm time halved, and the radar range increased by 700%, which exemplifies the technological progression that has taken place between the platforms. The use of Sky Sabre by the 16th Regiment Royal Artillery will progress the Army’s Future Soldier programme, which aims to provide land forces with the most technologically up-to-date equipment available.”