Rapier is a surface-to-air missile developed for the British Army to replace their towed Bofors 40/L70 anti-aircraft guns. The system is unusual as it uses a manual optical guidance system, sending guidance commands to the missile in flight over a radio link. This results in a high level of accuracy, therefore a large warhead is not required.
Entering service in 1971, it eventually replaced all other anti-aircraft weapons in British Army service; both the Bofors guns used against low-altitude targets and the Thunderbird missile used against longer-range and higher-altitude targets. As the expected air threat moved from medium-altitude strategic missions to low-altitude strikes, the fast reaction time and high manoeuvrability of the Rapier made it more effective than either of these weapons, replacing most of them by 1977.
Rapier was later selected by the RAF Regiment to replace their Bofors guns and Tigercat missiles. It also saw international sales. In October 2021, it was replaced as one of the UK’s primary air-defence weapons by Sky Sabre.
Australia signed a contract for the supply of 25 optical fire units of the Rapier Missile System in 1975. A subsequent order was placed in 1976 for the of 10 Blindfire radar units that made the system all weather day and night capable. The system became operational in 1980 with the 110 Battery 16th Air Defence Regiment. The Radar Trackers (providing all weather, day/night capability) arrived in 1981. In December 1984, replacement for Redeye was announced, and in March 1987, RBS-70 was introduced into 111 AD Bty (Lt).
The Rapier system was upgraded in 1988 to Field Standard B1 and was taken out of service in 2006. The majority of the systems were destroyed.