The initial batch of the Sky Sabre air defence system was delivered to the British Army in December 2021. Credit: Crown copyright.
The Sky Sabre is set to replace the Rapier short range defence system. Credit: Crown copyright.
The Sky Sabre programme involves the integrated effort of Saab, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and MBDA. Credit: Crown copyright.

Sky Sabre is an advanced air defence system developed to meet the British Army’s ground-based air defence (GBAD) requirements.

The new air defence system provides beyond visual range (BVR) engagement of enemy aircraft and air-delivered munition. It is intended to replace the ageing Rapier Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) system in service with the British Army.

Sky Sabre comprises three main components, namely the Land Ceptor missiles and launcher system, Giraffe AMB radar, and the modular integrated command, control, computers and communication (C4) air defence system MIC4AD, which serves as the command and control system.

The Sky Sabre programme includes three main contractors, namely Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Saab Group, and MBDA.

The system completed component integration trials in 2019 and was transferred to the British Army in December 2021.

Orders and deliveries of Sky Sabre Air Defence System

MBDA signed a contract worth £323m ($413.6m) with the UK government for the delivery of air defence systems for the Royal Navy and the British Army in April 2017. The company is providing its next-generation Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) for the Sea Ceptor and Land Ceptor defence systems.

Saab received the first contract for the delivery of five Giraffe Agile Multi Beam (AMB) systems as part of Lockheed Martin’s solution for the Land Environment Air Picture Provision (LEAPP) programme in April 2008. LEAPP is British military capability to provide near-real-time air picture to the ground troops.

The country placed orders for additional Giraffe AMB radars and associated equipment in August 2015. The orders also included upgrades to the existing systems. Saab delivered ten Giraffe AMBs to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) by June 2018. It signed a support contract with the MoD for the Giraffe AMB radars in January 2019. The contractual scope includes supply of spares and provision of repairs, maintenance, design assurance, and configuration management from 2019 to 2024.

Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement and support wing of the MoD, delivered the first tranche of the Sky Sabre air defence system to the British Army in December 2021. The system is operated by 16 Regiment Royal Artillery, a part of the British Army’s 7 Air Defence Group.

The three components of Sky Sabre function and co-ordinate with each other, operating at 15km from each other. The computer system can control 24 missiles simultaneously and guide them to intercept 24 separate targets.

MIC4AD command and control system in Sky Sabre Air Defence System

MIC4AD is a unified integrated command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) solution developed by Rafael for a different air and missile defence system. The unified system enables the control of all the air and missile defence systems under operation. The highly modular system features an open system architecture to accommodate the existing and future user requirements. The MIC4AD provides automated capabilities coupled with interactive displays. The C4I system links up the radar with the missiles, guiding them towards the targets.

The MIC4AD has a powerful correlation engine that can collate and correlate data from multiple sensors and platforms. It provides unified air situation picture and tactical intelligence for the operations command. The flexible resource management provides an optimised solution to threats at any command level that may include national, regional, or tactical.

The command and control system enables a multi-system, multi-layer and multi-range solution for air and missile defence threats. Compatible with a range of weapon systems including SPYDER, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome, it provides threat assessment, hostile target classification, and interception plan.

Giraffe AMB surveillance radar of Sky Sabre Air Defence System

The multi-function Giraffe AMB radar system provides air target information in real-time using a multi-mission sensor that operates in C-band and a command, control & communication solution housed in a 20ft container cabin. It can be used as a GBAD command post.

The system helps in rapidly assessing the air situations in real time, enabling quick response to the evolving threats. It is ideal for integrated medium and short-range GBAD systems. The radar system can also fill the communication gaps by acting as a mobile filler for long-range systems. It supports the integration of a standard or customised data link. The radar can scan threats up to 120km.

The three-dimensional radar provides 360o coverage rotating on an extending mast to monitor aerial targets including supersonic fighters, cruise missiles, and helicopters. It can also track down small, slow, and low-flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as identify and send warnings about incoming rockets, artillery, and mortar.

Land Ceptor system features

The Land Ceptor system of Sky Sabre Air Defence System, includes the CAMM, a launcher vehicle, and two fire unit support vehicles. It protects ground-based forces from aerial threats including combat aircraft and air-launched weapons.

Eight missiles can be mounted on the launcher. The multi-directional firing capability of the launcher decreases the signature of the missiles. The launcher can be rearmed in less than half of the time required for the Rapier.

Developed by MBDA, the CAMM weighs 99kg, which is more than twice that of its predecessor Rapier. It also provides an operational range of up to 25km, which is more than thrice that of the Rapier missile. The CAMM can achieve a speed of 2,300mph (3,702km/h) and destroy threats such as fighter aircraft, laser-guided smart bombs, and drones.

The missile is equipped with an advanced solid-state active radar seeker, a two-way datalink, a rocket motor with low acoustic signature, and a soft vertical launch system, which provides 360° coverage.