Originally conceived in the early 1970's and still in operation today, Rapier was developed by the British Aircraft Corporation (as it was then, subsequently British Aerospace, the forerunner of BAE Systems) as a surface to air missile. The initial version of this successful missile was a towed version requiring daylight and good weather.

Rapier required an operator to steer the missile towards the target, rather than a fire and forget operation that later versions provided. This was done by the operator moving a crosshair with a joystick so that it remained over the target. The system then measured the error between the crosshair and the missile plume and adjusted the flight accordingly.

The missile, a mainstay of the RAF, came to prominence in the Falklands War when it was responsible for a number of kills and much jubilation (and jingoism) by the British press.