Command of the United Kingdom’s ground-based air defence systems has transferred from the Royal Air Force to the Army. 

In a release, the British Army say that Jt GBAD (Joint Ground Based Air Defence) was renamed to 7th Air Defence Group under the new Operational Command of the Army’s Force Troops Command.

7 AD Gp is equipped with the Rapier missile that has seen service in the Falkland Islands, the High-Velocity Missile and the LEAPP target identification system. It is soon to upgrade to the Sky Sabre anti-aircraft missile system which it will start to be introduced later in the year.

APOSEA-2019-009-7th Air Defence Group-Upavon-005-BB.JPG
Image Crown Copyright 2019.

Speaking of the occasion Colonel Giles Malec, the Commander of the newly formed 7 AD Gp said:

“Although the command has passed to the Army the links to the Royal Air Force will continue. The Army is committed to growing the air defence capability over the coming years. There is a ten-year programme ahead to update our equipment with new missiles and radar systems; it will make our capability far more potent.”

The new 7 AD Gp is to relocate from the RAF Headquarters in High Wycombe to the home of the Royal Artillery’s air defence, Baker Barracks on Thorney Island near Chichester.

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Daniele Mandelli

Yes, I learned of this a few weeks back. Have always been curious why it was an Air Command formation and not an army one. Comprises 3 Regiments: 16 RA with Rapier FSC, 12 RA with Starstreak, 106 ( Yeomanry ) ( R ) and also 47 ( Inkerman ) Battery with the LEAP system. This is vastly reduced from previously, like most other areas of the military, when there were two Rapier Regiments – 16 and 22 ( tracked ), two regular Starstreak Regiments – 12 ( Self Propelled on Stormer ) and 47 ( which is now a… Read more »


It was run by the RAF as it was intended to simply be a defence system for Airbases and as such fell under the RAF Regiment responsibility. However the Falklands showed that there was a wider function for theses systems and so it was decided that it was therefore better to be under the control of the Army.

Daniele Mandelli

I don’t think that is quite correct. Rapier has always been a field system of the army deployed with our brigades in BAOR, even after the Falklands.

The RAF Regiment LLADS Low Level Air Defence Squadrons had long been disbanded for the airfield defence role. Years ago.

And the Falklands operation occurred way before this JGBAD was even thought of.

I do not think that is the reason at all.


That is an awful long time to introduce the lessons learned from the Falklands.


Cool, nice info Daniele ?

Daniele Mandelli

No worries mate.


I would love to see us purchase a theatre Wide GBA system like SAMP (t). Land ceptor is great but lack of theatre ballistic missile defence is the main capability missing from the British army and its increasingly important for deployed forces as ballistic missiles get better.


Do we have anything similar to the Russian S400 or US Patriot systems? Not an area I’m that familiar with.

Daniele Mandelli

Nothing. It’s been Rapier or even shorter range Starstreak, and before that Blowpipe, for many decades.


So here’s some questions.

Rapier is 45kg and goes mach 2 for 6km. Starstreak goes mach 3 for 6km but is only 14kg. If that is years of progress why does a CAMM weigh 7 times more than a Starstreak but only go 4 times further? How far would a 25kg Starstreak go and would it be any good?

And which is better a Starstreak or a Stinger? Could either of them be used as a CIWS unit or can that only be done with a cannon shell or a 80kg+ missile?


Comparing ranges of missiles is an exercise in futility. The key performance metrics are the engagement envelope and no escape zone. Land Ceptor will have way more than 24km range. Asraam can reach out to 60km. Although Land Ceptor is ground launched it wlll be closer to that than 24km. Hopefully we’ll be looking at CAMM-ER when it is developed, which will go out to c80km with no changes to launch vehicles, radars or command vehicles. Starstreak and Stinger do roughly the same job, although Starstreak is rarely seen away from its mount, it can be shoulder launched but in… Read more »


The nearest system the uk is going to get to them is the medium range sky sabre system.


The UK never invested in long range air defense because it did not believe Russia could threaten UK airspace without fighting it’s way passed Norway or half of Europe first. That is why Poland and historically Germany purchased patriot.
With stealth UAV’s and Russia possessing its own TLAM the UK seriously needs to expand and upgrade its SAM arsenal. Sky Sabre will not cut it in my opinion against a long range stealth missile that hugs the terrain from 300km away.


I agree.

Steve R

I don’t see why they can’t also integrate Aster 30 missiles into Sky Sabre to provide longer-range air defence. Seems a simple solution to me.


Only at sea, sea viper on T45 has similar capabilities to s400 or even s500 when the aster 30 NT comes on line. Black mamba SAMP t is the land based equivalent operated by France and Italy


Cutting more RAF units to save money I bet! And no doubt we will field less Sky Sabre units. It Seems odd that the RAF won’t have sky sabre, but I suppose the British millitray is working far closer together now so might not matter.. I hope.

Daniele Mandelli

Air defences were one of the easiest cuts for HMG. The last few decades have seen the UK in expeditionary campaigns against enemies who’s air power was either virtually negated or, in the case of AL Qaeda, ISIS, or the Taliban, none.

Now with a renewed emphasis on potential peer on peer confrontation air defence should be enhanced.


I think we all forget that Coalition forces were targeted by missile attacks by the Iraqi’s in GW2. Whilst not an ‘air power’ threat it is an aerial threat.

Steve R

Do we know how many Sky Sabre units we’re actually getting?

Daniele Mandelli

No idea Steve R. I’d hope more than 20! That miniscule number could make 4 in each of the 4 batteries plus 4 spare in training reg at Larkhill.
Who knows 16 RA might have its batteries cut, would not surprise me.

This is an area that should be expanding!


Considering we’re the only European nation bar France that undertakes serious expeditionary manoeuvres it’s odd we don’t have patriot or similar to protect our forces.

Daniele Mandelli

Hiding behind the Americans?


Yeah I used to think that – I think the RAF’s choice to use interceptor aircraft for high altitude threats…there was Bloodhound during the Cold War, but when that was retired in the 1990s I suppose it was felt there wasn’t any reason to develop a high altitude SAM system when there were no credible threat to defend against. Now I guess the thinking is that in the event of a major conflict overseas where the enemy has a half-decent air force, we will be operating alongside the Americans/NATO and they will bring Patriot with them, as happened in the… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I read that very thing the other day somewhere on UKDJ. I think Davey and another were discussing Crowsnest – Link16 – Viper.


I think the USN are experimenting on it with the Advanced Hawkeye, having it cue targets for both fighter aircraft and CGs and DDGs. But what I see as the bonus of Crowsnest for this kind of thing is its ability to be deployed on surface combatants operating independently from the carrier battle group (not that we have the hulls anymore for this, but still it’s nice to dream!)


Hi Mate, The Crowsnest/Link16/Viper is a follow-on development of the E3D/Link16/AMRAAM trial that Typhoon had conducted a few years back. This is where the Typhoon is operating in a passive mode using the E3D for target searching. When the E3D detects a threat, a command was sent to the Typhoon which fired the missile in the threat’s detection. The E3D would send guidance updates to the Typhoon which would then send updates to the missile all via Link 16. This tactic proved successful except for the “delay” updating the threat’s information through the Typhoon. A further trial was done where… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

There we go! Cheers Davey.


Ah cool – cheers Davey that’s really interesting. Out of interest, how much of a disadvantage in terms of missile lethality would it be for our aircraft to rely on Link16 instead of MADL for target cueing? Is it a tremendous loss in capability not to add MADL to Crowsnest and T45s, or given how we operate is the difference negligible?


As I have said above the F35 uses is MADL as a discrete data link so has a very low probability of being intercepted. The Link16 uses an omni-directional antenna so anybody with the right gear can be detect and triangulate the signal source. The difference between MADL and Link16 is like comparing the data throughput of 4G with 2G. A complex string of data is transmitted by both systems, but it takes a lot longer. The main difference would be that with a MADL datalink multiple threats could be dealt with concurrently, with Link16 they may have to be… Read more »


I thought when they had the NATO meeting in Cardiff they parked HMS Dragon in the harbour to provide SAM cover.

The RAF maybe don’t want to get involved in more missile stuff because it interferes with Tempest. With the increase in Russian and other threats maybe the MOD wants cover for expeditionary and overall UK home defence. With so small a landmass, thinking maybe that the UK could achieve this cover relatively economically and free up RAF for greater things. With interface using a combo of RN and Army assets might work quite effectively?


It seems to me that the logic of defending the ground you hold should naturally go to the Army. That places the missiles in the UK, Overseas territories and bases and perhaps shows a move post Brexit to place the responsibility & cost of defense back to European countries. Defenses for our own troops abroad must be deployed with our troops. It also suggests a modernisation programme for the Army to ensure it is properly equipped for its future role. Does this make sense anyone?


My thinking is whilst wide area of defence coverage would be ideal, we are never going to be able to cover the whole UK or the whole forward deployment, and so with a limited budget you want to cover your key points and then rely on fighters to provide the wider coverage. This way the key point are covered against surprise cruise missile attacks, which a are realistically the only ones that would be targeted considering the cost per missile. The issue with this thinking is that we don’t seem to have enough rapiers / sky saber to cover all… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

The other point with all of that Steve is that as things stand the Rapier / Sky Sabre and Starstreak assets we do have are field formations deployed with the army in the field, wherever our Brigades will be, so will their attendant air defence battery.

There is no area or point defence of UK installations at all, and the only example where there is is the Rapier Battery of 16 RA which is on roulment in the Falkland Islands and defending MPA.


To me this makes sense, other than the lack of coverage in the UK. Perm units should at least be based at the main radar stations, which if taken out would have a serious impact on our ability to defend the UK. Mention of the Falklands however reminds me that a key part of the war was the placement of the rapiers by helicopter in forward deployed defensive locations. Ok they didn’t work due to poor design/placement (couldn’t target/ shoot downwards), but the idea/tactic was sound, sothe question is how would this be achieved in 2019, once rapier goes out… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

That’s the crux Steve. There are not enough assets as it is to give the field formations comprehensive air defence, let alone back in the UK at key sites.


To some degree I disagree with this decision as historically the Army is a mobile force whilst the Airforce is predominantly a fixed force. This means the Army’s focus is fixed on its deployments and perhaps not defending the home. The RAF until recently was primarily a UK and NATO defence asset. It has only been the last 30 years that the RAF has re-embraced contingency operations again i.e. deploying as a force overseas. The Army’s SAMs of the past like Thunderbird were designed to be mobile so that they could defend the Army in the field from medium to… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Excellent post. Thanks Davey.

Yep, no where near enough batteries in 16 RA to cover the army and the the UK.

I think each off our current 4 Rapier FSC batteries has 6 Fire Units?

Will be interesting to see how many Sky Sabre are being procured.

Personally I’d have the RAF operate any home based SAM system and the Army control expeditionary based field deployed systems, as is the case now.

Rob N

I think we had a long range system in the passed called Bloodhound 2 with a 180km range and M2,6. It was there to protect the UK against Russian nuclear bombers. However after nukes were put onto BMs the SAM was retired. It strikes me that with a resurgent Russia and their cruise missiles we should do as other countries (France, Spain etc), and restore this gap in our air defence. A new system could also perform ABM defence. Keep Land Ceptor/Sky Sabre for short/medium range and and upgraded Aster30 for long range. It is very sad that the UK… Read more »

Steve R

It seems crazy to me that we have no medium to long range SAM capability in the UK, either for our forces overseas when on operations or in the UK to be able to protect important sites at home.

Aster 30 has a range of up to 120km; I don’t see why we can’t use the land based version as well. It already exists so may as well use it.

Or if we want our own indigenous one, perhaps a land-based adaption for Meteor?

Rob N

I agree it is crazy… all the other European powers have long range systems. However the UK government is too short sighted and penny pinching to give the UK credible air defence.

Aster would be fine – I like the idea of Land Meteor.


Daniel John Powell

Agreed I often want see the nasam system 2 with meteor MK2 (upgrade to engine and Japanese aesa with option booster modular for land) for RAF air defence and military port replace bloodhound 2. I not sure if they was originally plan replace bloodhound 3 with extended range and high speed use ramjet upgrade in end cancelled due cold war end. Also I would like see aster 30 block 2 (aster 45) for anti ICBM defence at UK land based and type 45 as Chinese and some other nationality got ICBM anti-ship since they don’t sign 300km limited range high… Read more »