Based on a 1964 development programme, Rapier entered service with the British Army and RAF Regiment in June 1967.

Rapier is a Hitile, so called because it must hit the target to explode, whereas most SAMs use a proximity fuse which causes the missile to explode near the target, obviating the need for physical contact.

The simple design of Rapier meant that it was cheaper than all rivals of broadly similar performance. Controlled by tail control fins and powered by a dual-thrust, solid motor, it was capable of Mach 2.

Many configurations of Rapier have been developed and sold throughout the world, including sales to Australia, Iran, Oman, Brunei and Zambia.