Britain is sending Starstreak missiles to defend oil-rich Saudi Arabia – while Ukraine is demanding more of the same to shoot down Russian planes and drones.
The Sun revealed that secret plans to bolster Riyadh’s air defenses were drawn up by Top Brass last year.
Troops armed with Stormer light tanks and the world’s fastest surface-to-air missiles will rush into the desert kingdom, despite human rights concerns.
Their comrades deployed in secret with early warning radars after a series of drone attacks by Iranian-backed rebels slashed oil production in 2019.
The Royal Artillery gunners brought Giraffe anti-aircraft radars but they did not deploy with missiles.
A defense source said the arrival of Starstreak anti-aircraft weapons would bring “a significant change in capability”.
The missile launchers are mounted on all-terrain Alvis Stormers, 13-ton light tracked tanks that can reach 80 km/h.
A source said: ‘The Saudis want us there because they like the UK to be on their side.
Gunners from the Royal Artillery have deployed “over the past few weeks” with two Stormer light tanks equipped with Starstreak missile launchers to shoot down Iranian drones.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “This is a purely defensive capability.”
Up to six all-terrain Alvis Stormers and 60 personnel are to be deployed this year.
High-tech Starstreak missiles can hit tennis ball-sized targets moving at the speed of sound.
They zoom at more than three times the speed of sound and split into three darts to puncture armor before warheads explode.
Belfast-made missiles can be shoulder-launched or vehicle-mounted.
They are not “fire and forget” missiles like some other anti-aircraft systems.
Instead, they are guided to targets by a ground operator, making them lethally immune to countermeasures.
Gunners from 16 Regiment Royal Artillery flew to Riyadh in February 2020 on what was originally intended to be a short term mission.
They will be replaced by soldiers from their sister regiment 12 Royal Artillery, based at Thorney Island, Hants.
At first the deployment was kept secret as Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman was accused of killing thousands of civilians in the war in neighboring Yemen.
The CIA also said it ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was cut up with bone saws at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
In March, Britain said it was sending Stormers and Starstreaks to help Ukrainian forces repel Russian invaders.
Dramatic footage showed them using a Starstreak to shoot down a Russian Mi-28N helicopter over Lugansk in April.
Ukraine is now demanding more of these and other weapons to tackle Putin’s war machine.
And he wants the West to send modern long-range artillery because he is now vastly outmatched in the fight for the Donbass region.
Britain has given Ukraine identical Starstreak missiles that can hit tennis ball-sized objects traveling at the speed of sound.
Terrified Russian pilots have refused to fly sorties ahead of their troops in Ukraine for fear of being shot down, Western ghosts have claimed.
Wallace said Britain had purchased 20 heavy self-propelled artillery guns for Ukraine and the long-promised multiple-launch rocket launchers were expected to arrive within days.
Britain also sent Ukraine thousands of NLAW anti-tank missiles, hundreds of Javelin anti-tank weapons, armored vehicles
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