Tigercat short-range anti-aircraft missile system outside the Heritage Centre.

The Shorts Tigercat is the land-use variant of the popular and widely used Shorts Seacat anti-aircraft missile, developed and manufactured by Short Brothers, Harland and Marconi.

The Tigercat Short Range Anti-Aircraft Missile was a private development of the Seacat and was tested officially and brought into service by the RAF Regiment on 16th November 1967 with 48 Squadron being re-equipped with 12 launcher units. 48 Squadron retained the Shorts Tigercat missile until 1978 when the RAF Regiment adopted the Rapier missile.

The system is divided between two trailers towed by Land Rovers. One for the missile launcher and one for the optical sight and control gear. The control gear affords the operator Control Line Of Sight adjustment for the missile once it has been launched. An enhanced version of this system utilises radar for blind dark firing capability.

The Tigercat missile itself is subsonic and powered by a two-stage solid fuel motor: it is steered in flight by four swept wings, the adjustment of which are controlled remotely by radio from the operator who would have line of sight of both the missile and the target.

48 Sqn RAF Regt – and therefore the British Military – only ever had 3 systems (launcher and control units). The only reason the MOD took them on was because Short Bros were trying to sell them overseas but were struggling to complete the contracts when they were asked “how many Tigercat systems were there in service with UK Forces?” Hence 3 systems were gifted to the MOD and a certain Gp Capt Donald Pocock, a Regt Staff Officer in the MOD, identified a good long-term investment, which was borne out when the RAF Regt led the way with the Rapier system in service from 1974 to 2004. The 48 Sqn systems were eventually sold to the Zambian AF in 1979 (the crews being trained at Catterick) but they defaulted on the payment and they were never delivered.