UK to send Sky Sabre missile system and 100 personnel to Poland

Next-generation air defence technology can reportedly hit tennis ball-sized object travelling at speed of sound

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The UK is to send a medium-range missile system and 100 personnel to Poland to “protect her airspace from any further aggression by Russia”, Britain's defence secretary has said.

The Sky Sabre was unveiled by the British Army earlier this year and, according to its billing, can hit a tennis ball-sized object travelling at the speed of sound.

Speaking on a visit to Warsaw, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Poland — which is taking the brunt of refugees fleeing Ukraine after the country’s invasion by Russia — is a “very old ally”.

Downing Street said the deployment of the Sky Sabre system would “[support] the Polish armed forces at the request of the Polish government”.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said the weaponry had a “purely defensive capability” and would remain under “UK control at all times” during the short-term deployment.

The announcement comes as Nato pledged to send more troops to defend its eastern flank and days after Russian missiles struck a military base in Yavoriv, Ukraine, a few kilometres from the border with Poland.

Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, fifth left, speaks with officers in front of the Saab Giraffe surveillance radar, a key component of the Sky Sabre air defence system. AFP.

What is a Sky Sabre missile?

The medium and short-range Sky Sabre missile system replaced the older Rapier system, which has been used by the British Armed Forces since the 1970s.

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

The £250 million 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.

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

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.

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

“Sky Sabre is so accurate and agile … it can control the flight of 24 missiles simultaneously while in flight, guiding them to intercept 24 separate targets,” he said.

Updated: March 17, 2022, 5:13 PM