UK unveils missiles that can 'hit a tennis ball while flying at speed of sound'

New $331m Sky Sabre system designed to neutralise threat from stealth fighters

A member of the Royal Artillery Regiment using the radar of Britain's new Sky Sabre air defence missile system. Photo: Ministry of Defence

The British Army has unveiled a new air defence system that can hit a tennis ball-sized object travelling at the speed of sound.

The Ministry of Defence said the Sky Sabre technology would initially augment the 16th Regiment Royal Artillery's arsenal but would soon be kept by all three military branches, as well as Nato.

The medium and short-range missile system is to replace the older Rapier system, which has been in the British Armed Forces' possession since the 1970s.

The Rapier was used in Kuwait and the Falklands, and to protect the 2012 London Olympics from the ground.

The £250 million ($331m) Sky Sabre can fire eight larger missiles in one shot compared to the previous model's two shots, and vastly increases its range from 8.2 kilometres to 25.

The new air defence technology consists of three components: radar, a command and control centre and a missile delivery system. Photo: Ministry of Defence

The advanced detect-and-destroy system is designed to neutralise the threat from Russian-made stealth fighters and other hypersonic missiles.

It was introduced as tension escalates between Russia and the West over military build-up at the border with Ukraine.

Maj Tim Oakes described the equipment as having "amazing capability".

“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 while in flight, guiding them to intercept 24 separate targets."

Jeremy Quin, the UK's Defence Procurement Minister, said: "Sky Sabre's spearheading technology has significantly upgraded the protection of our forces from threats from the air.

"This cutting-edge defence system is a clear demonstration of our warfighting capabilities to those who wish to do us harm."

Updated: December 7th 2021, 5:22 PM