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Rapier British surface-to-air missile

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Rapier British surface-to-air missile


Date: 2015-11-13
The Source (author):

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.

JERNAS is the export name for the Rapier FSC (Field Standard C) air defence system developed by MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics, UK). JERNAS is based on the Rapier mk2 missile and launcher, which is in service with the British Army and Royal Air Force, the Blindfire tracking radar and the Dagger surveillance radar.

JERNAS provides defence against unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and fixed and rotary-wing aircraft.

Rapier missile system development

Development of the system started in 1992 and 57 Rapier FSC systems were produced for the UK Ministry of Defence. Rapier FSC first entered service in 1996. The systems are operational in two air defence batteries of the Royal Artillery and were operational in four ground-based air defence squadrons of the Royal Air Force.

In July 2004, the UK Ministry of Defence announced plans to reduce Rapier anti-aircraft missile launchers from 48 to 24 fire units, including the disbanding of the RAF Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) Squadrons. Two RAF GBAD squadrons were disbanded in March 2006 and two were reroled in April 2008.

A new Air Defence Command and Control System, ADC4I, is to be developed for the UK Ministry of 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 II will involve the upgrading of the missile systems. MBDA and EADS Defence & Communications were awarded the contract for the assessment phase of the programme in December 2003.

Various versions of the Rapier missile system are in service with nine countries. Oman, Singapore, Switzerland and Turkey have had their systems upgraded and have ordered the mk2 missile. The Australian Army withdrew its Rapier systems from service in November 2005.

In April 2002, Malaysia signed a contract with MBDA to procure the Jernas system, including nine missile launchers (later increased to 15), three radars, Rapier mk2 missiles, training and support. Malaysia is the first export customer for Jernas. BAE Systems Insyte supplied the Blindfire tracking and weapon control radars and Dagger surveillance radars. The first system was delivered in March 2006 and ten systems were delivered by the end of 2006.



The original Rapier took the form of a wheeled launcher with four missiles, an optical tracker unit, a generator and trailer of stores. The launcher consists of a large cylindrical unit carrying two missiles on each side, the surveillance radar dish and "Identification friend or foe" (IFF) system under a radome on top, the guidance computer and radar electronics at the bottom, and a prominent parabolic antenna for sending guidance commands to the missiles on the front.

The search radar was of the pulsed Doppler type with a range of about 15 km. The aerial, located at the top of the launcher, rotated about once a second, looking for moving targets that are "visible" due to their doppler shift. When one was located, a lamp would light up on the Selector Engagement Zone (SEZ), a box containing 32 orange lamps arranged in a circle about the size of an automobile steering wheel. The radar operator could also blank out returns from other directions, providing jamming resistance.

The optical tracker unit was made up of a stationary lower section and a rotating upper section. The lower section housed the operator controls, while the upper section housed the tracking optics. The operator`s optical system was a modified telescope containing a Dove prism to prevent the image `toppling` as the optics rotate in azimuth. This system meant that, unlike a periscope, the operator did not have to move in order to track the target. The upper section also contained a separate missile tracking system that was slaved to the operator`s optics, based on a television camera optimized for the IR band.

Upon detection, the optical tracking system would then be slewed to target azimuth and the operator would then search for the target in elevation. The operator`s field of view would depend on the target range: "wide" at about 20 degrees or "track" at about 4.8 degrees. When the target was found the operator switches to "track" and uses a joystick to keep the target centred in the telescope. Once a steady track was established the missile was fired. The TV camera on the tracker was tuned to track the four flares on the missile`s tail. Like the operator`s telescope, the TV system had two views, one about 11 degrees wide for the initial "capture", and another at 0.55 degrees for midcourse tracking.

The difference between the line-of-sight of the operator`s telescope and the missile`s flare was calculated by the computer in the base of the launcher. Guidance updates were sent to the missile through the transmitter on the launcher platform, and received on small antennas on the rear of the mid-body fins. The operator simply kept the telescope`s crosshairs on the target using the joystick, and the missile would automatically fly into the line-of-sight, a system of operation known as SACLOS. The basic concept is very similar to the one used by most anti-tank missiles, with the exception that those systems normally use small wires to send guidance information to the missile, rather than a radio link.

The missile contained a small 1.4 kg warhead with a contact fuse and a single-stage solid-rocket motor that accelerated the missile to about 650 m/s. Engagement time to the maximum effective range was about 13 seconds. Response time from the start of the target detection to missile launch is about 6 seconds, which has been repeatedly confirmed in live firing.

The whole system, along with its crew, was delivered by two Land Rovers designated as the Fire Unit Truck (FUT) and the Detachment Support Vehicle (DSV). Royal Artillery batteries comprised three troops each of four fire units while RAF Regiment squadrons had eight fire units. By 1980 each Royal Artillery fire unit consisted of a (24 volt) 101 FC 1 tonne Land Rover towing the Rapier Launcher and carrying 4 missiles on board, a 109-inch 3/4 ton 24v FFR (Fitted For Radio) Land Rover towing a 1-ton Missile Supply Trailer (MST), containing up to a further 10 missiles. Blindfire radar was only provided for 1⁄3 of fire units in British Army service, and for all fire units in the RAF Regiment.

Blindfire radar

Blindfire radar unit
Although accurate and simple to use, the original Rapier system clearly suffered from a lack of all-weather capability. To address this need, BAC started work on a separate radar guidance unit, primarily to improve foreign sales. This led to the introduction of the Marconi DN 181 "Blindfire" radar in 1970,[6] the first examples being sold to the Iranian Army in 1973. The British Army did not purchase the Blindfire system until 1979, entering service with Rapier "Field Standard A" (FSA). By 1997 more than 350 Blindfire radars had been produced.

Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force Regiment already had 27 Squadron operational with Blindfire at RAF Leuchars by 1979, and were in the process of bringing all the RAF Regiment GBAD (Ground Based Air Defence) Squadrons into line.

To ensure accuracy, Blindfire used a very narrow "pencil" beam and tracks both the target and missile. To allow the operator to monitor the Blindfire system when it was tracking the target, the existing optical tracker was slaved to the Blindfire radar, although it was possible for the optical tracker to be manually "laid on" a second target whilst the Blindfire engages the first target. The Blindfire trailer carries its own generator unit, and a third Land Rover (a 12v winch equipped 101 FC) the Tracking Radar Tractor (TRT) to tow it.

With sales to Iran came the additional requirement for a mobile version of Rapier. BAC responded by adapting the Rapier system to fit on the M548, a cargo-carrier version of the ubiquitous M113 armored personnel carrier. Development started in 1974 as "Tracked Rapier", but had not yet been delivered when the Shah fell from power in 1978. The vehicles were later purchased by the British Army. The first public showing of Tracked Rapier was at the 1977 Paris Air Show, as a static display unit. The first Tracked Rapiers entered service with 11 (Sphinx) Air Defence Battery, of 22 Air Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery in 1983 in Napier Barracks near Dortmund.

The conversion was relatively simple; the launch unit was placed on the extreme rear of the cargo platform at the rear of the M548 carrier, and the tracking system placed inside the cabin at the front of the vehicle, projecting through the roof of one of the turret bustles. The optical tracker was operated from the left side of the crew cabin, while on the right were the driver and tactical controller. The crew cabin was quite cramped as a result, with the three crewmembers and all of the equipment stuffed into an area originally intended for two men. From moving to firing took only 30 seconds, a tremendous improvement over Towed Rapier, which required at least a quarter an hour to unlimber. The biggest difference between towed and tracked Rapier was that the tracked Rapier launcher had eight missile rails compared with the four of the towed system. Unfortunately the equipment also greatly slowed the vehicle, with cross-country performance reduced to about 15 km/h.

There was no room for Blindfire on a single M548, so this was instead towed or carried on a separate M548. Feeding data to the control system in the firing unit thus required more setup time to connect the two vehicles. With less internal hardware, the support vehicle was also tasked with carrying field kits, rations and water.

After initially entering service, the Tracked Rapiers were upgraded several times to follow the upgrades being introduced to all Rapier systems. The latest version included a new helmet-mounted sight that allowed the tactical controller to quickly slew the tracker onto the target while standing out of the other roof-mounted turret bustle.

During Gulf War One, 12 and 16 Regiment Royal Artillery tracked batteries, combined to provide Tracked Rapier support to deployed armored regiments. Tracked Rapier was retired in the early 1990s. It has since been replaced by Starstreak missile launchers mounted on the Alvis Stormer.

Shortly after introducing FSA, "Field Standard B" (FSB) added a number of basic upgrades. Additionally, the search radar was upgraded to be easily shut down in case of an anti-radiation missile attack. FSB included lessons from the Falklands campaign, notable the `pointing stick` that enabled the detachment commander of a fire unit to point the aiming unit at a target.

With the range of upgrades and new components, the original low-cost Rapier system was gone. In order to address international market requirements for a lower-cost system, BAC started development of the "Rapier Laserfire" in 1982. Laserfire replaced the original optical tracker unit with a new lidar (laser radar) illuminating system that is considerably smaller, allowing the entire system to be mounted on a single pallet that could itself be mounted on a truck or other flatbed vehicle.

Initial engagement is similar to the original Rapier, but the target was illuminated and automatically tracked by a high power YAG:Nd laser. After the missile was launched the laser alternately illuminated the target and missile to determine their locations, and guidance was sent to the missile as normal (see laser guidance). Laserfire thus represented a fairly major upgrade to the original optical system, allowing semi-automatic engagements, and greatly reducing operator skill and training requirements.

On the downside, Laserfire no longer has the optical system of the original, which served an important second duty by allowing the aircraft to be visually identified at long range. Additionally, while the Laserfire tracking system was capable of being operated at night, target acquisition was optical, like the original Rapier.

In 1985 development started on a new tracker that replaced the original optical system with a new IR thermal imager system to improve its abilities, especially at night. This version was known as "Rapier Darkfire" for this reason. Trials of the new system started in 1987, and were deployed operationally in 1990 as "Field Standard B2" (FSB2), the earlier upgrades retroactively becoming FSB1. This system was also known as "Rapier 90". Cooling for the imager was provided by bottles of compressed gas.

FSB2 also introduced a number of improvements that greatly improved Rapier capabilities. First and foremost was the Tactical Control Console that allowed four Rapier launchers to be controlled from a central location. The launchers themselves were upgraded to carry six missiles instead of four, improving battery capacity. Finally, the search radar was updated to use a new planar array radar, although its capabilities remained generally the same as the earlier model.

Missile upgrades
In 1988 tests started on an improved warhead using a proximity fuse, in order to give Rapier capability against smaller targets that would be difficult to hit directly, notably high-speed remotely piloted vehicles. Serial production of Mk. 1E began in 1989.

In 1992 the Army signed a contract to upgrade all Rapier systems to an enhanced version. A Mark 2 missile variant commenced development in 1986 culminating in a complete re-design which entered service in the mid-1990s. Along with a further upgrade of the proximity fuse, the new missile incorporated (then) state-of-art technologies including:

Von Karman supersonic aerodynamic profile Composite propellant, two-stage shaped burn and laminated body solid rocket motor Ceramic substrate surface mount PCBs Completely new electronic systems and software Both analogue and digital proprietary ASICs Highly ECM resistant front end and command link with redundant encoding Fully Digital Autopilot incorporating Kalman state filtering Inertial navigation comprising ring-laser roll and rate gyroscope Kapton ribbon cabling.

The missile warhead is available in two versions, the Mk. 2A for the normal anti-aircraft role, and the Mk. 2B, which includes a shaped charge warhead and dual fuses, and which is useful against light armour as well.

Rapier 2000

Jernas launcher unit. Note the optical tracker on top, integrated generator, and greatly reduced overall height.
In 1992, shortly after the introduction of Rapier 90, another major upgrade series started at MBDA (previously Matra BAe Dynamics). Emerging as "Rapier 2000", or "Field Standard C" (FSC) in British service, the system reached its ultimate form. Development of the FSC system began at the end of the 1980s and the systems first entered service in 1996. By this time the Cold War was over and British air defence capabilities significantly reduced, fewer and smaller batteries albeit every fire unit with Blindfire. There is also an export version of this version, known as Jernas. Malaysia is the first export customer for Jernas.

FSC was effectively a new system, although Blindfire was little changed and it could fire both Mk 1 and Mk 2 missiles. The Surveillance radar was removed from the launcher and became a separate element and each launcher now carried eight missiles.

With the missiles increasingly relying on radar guidance since the introduction of Blindfire, it made sense to upgrade the original search radar to something much more modern. This was supplied by the Alenia Marconi "Dagger",[7] a 3D pulse doppler radar with an integrated Cossor Mark 10 IFF system. Dagger is mounted on its own trailer, so the radome on top of the launcher unit was no longer needed. In its place, a much more modern optical tracking system was added. The new tracker used a Stirling-cycle cooler instead of compressed gas bottles. The use of much smaller electronics greatly reduced stack height of the whole launcher, allowing an additional two missiles to be added, for a total of eight.

In operation, the Rapier 2000 is similar to earlier Blindfire-equipped systems. Targets are acquired visually or through the Dagger radar, and then the Blindfire and optical tracker are slewed onto the target. The optical system can be used solely to track the missile, or it can be used for all guidance, like the original Rapier. In either case the engagement is entirely automatic, with no operator guidance needed. The optical system can also be used as a search system, seeking out IR sources, allowing radar-quiet operation.

In 2006 a Ministry of Defence study in Ground Based Air Defence recommended further reductions including abolition of the RAF Regiment squadrons, which duly took place.

Specifications of the Rapier British surface-to-air missile

Production history
Designer British Aircraft Corporation
Designed 1963
Manufacturer British Aircraft Corporation (19631977)
BAe Dynamics (19771999)
MBDA (UK) Ltd (since 1999)
Produced 1969-1990s
Number built ~25,000 missiles, 600 launchers and 350 radars
Variants Mk1 ("Hittile"), Mk2B (Missile)

Weight 45 kg
Length 2.235 m
Diameter 0.133 m
Warhead Blast fragmentation explosive close proximity warhead
Detonation mechanism
Proximity triggered chemical fuse
Engine solid-fuel rocket
Wingspan 0.138 m
Operational range
400 8,200 m[1]
Flight ceiling 3,000 m (Mk1 missile),[2] 5,000m (Mk2)[3]
Speed Mach 2.5 (3,062.6 km/h; 1,903.0 mph; 0.85073 km/s)
Guidance system
Automatic command to line of sight[3]
Steering system
flight control surface
Launch platform

Rapier British surface-to-air missile Rapier British surface-to-air missile Rapier British surface-to-air missile

Date: 2015-11-13
The Source:

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