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JERNAS

Zetro has established a contract with MBDA to support the maintenance of JERNAS in Malaysia.

Background

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 1972, it eventually replaced all other anti-aircraft weapons in 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 maneuverability 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. It remains one of the UK's primary air-defence weapons, and its deployment is expected to continue until 2020.

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Operation

In 1992, shortly after the introduction of Rapier 90, another major upgrade series started at MBDA (previously Matra BAe Dynamics). Emerging as "Rapier 2000", or "Field Standard C" (FSC) in British service, the system reached its ultimate form. Development of the FSC system began at the end of the 1980s and the systems first entered service in 1996. By this time the Cold War was over and British air defence capabilities were significantly reduced, with fewer and smaller batteries, albeit every fire unit with Blindfire. There is also an export version of this version, known as JERNAS. Malaysia is the first export customer for JERNAS.

FSC was effectively a new system, although Blindfire was little changed and it could fire both Mk 1 and Mk 2 missiles. The Surveillance radar was removed from the launcher and became a separate element and each launcher now carried eight missiles.

With the missiles increasingly relying on radar guidance since the introduction of Blindfire, it made sense to upgrade the original search radar to something much more modern. This was supplied by the Alenia Marconi "Dagger", a 3D pulse doppler radar with an integrated Cossor IFF Mark 10 system. Dagger is mounted on its own trailer, so the radome on top of the launcher unit was no longer needed. In its place, a much more modern optical tracking system was added. The new tracker used a Stirling-cycle cooler instead of compressed gas bottles. The use of much smaller electronics greatly reduced stack height of the whole launcher, allowing an additional two missiles to be added, for a total of eight.

In operation, the Rapier 2000 is similar to earlier Blindfire-equipped systems. Targets are acquired visually or through the Dagger radar, and then the Blindfire and optical tracker are slewed onto the target. The optical system can be used solely to track the missile, or it can be used for all guidance, like the original Rapier. In either case the engagement is entirely automatic, with no operator guidance needed. The optical system can also be used as a search system, seeking out IR sources, allowing radar-quiet operation.

Maintenance