Discover the Best of the Spike Missile System

An advanced, versatile family of guided missiles designed for precision strike capabilities. Discover the Best of the Spike Missile System, an Ultimate Force Multiplier. Developed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Spike system features multiple variants for air-to-surface, ground-to-ground, and anti-tank applications. Notable versions include Spike-NLOS (Non-Line-Of-Sight) with extended range, Spike-ER (Extended Range) for anti-ship and ground targets, and Spike-LR (Long Range) for anti-tank purposes.

Photo Credit: Rafael Advanced Systems

The system is characterized by its fire-and-forget capability, allowing operators to engage targets with minimal exposure. Equipped with sophisticated electro-optical guidance systems, Spike missiles offer high accuracy and adaptability to various operational environments. Widely adopted by military forces worldwide, the Spike missile system is renowned for its effectiveness in modern warfare scenarios, providing a reliable and precise means of engaging a range of targets.

Since its inception, the Spike Missile System has been designed as a 4th Generation Fire-and-Forget Anti-Tank Guided Missile and Anti-Personnel Missile, featuring a Tandem-Charge High-Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) Warhead. It is offered in three variants: Helicopter-Launched, Vehicle-Launched, and Man-Portable. According to Rafael, the current SPIKE NLOS represents a 6th Generation Missile with ongoing advancements. Upon firing, salvos can be simultaneously launched against multiple high-value targets.

Control can be transferred between platforms to complete missions safely. Image-matching technology, which enables the handover of the target itself rather than just its coordinates, ensures a level of precision down to a specific tank or section of a building. Real-time intelligence during the missile’s flight allows for additional targeting and control of collateral damage. Stand-off ranges, significantly better than other available options, ensure high survivability and facilitate the element of surprise.

Discover the Best of the Spike Missile System
Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Discover the Best of the Spike Missile System

Design Description of the Spike Missile System

The missile’s modular design facilitates ease of integration with different platforms, including helicopters, ground vehicles, and naval vessels.

The Spike missiles stand out for their advanced electro-optical guidance systems, which include imaging infrared seekers and CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) sensors for precise target acquisition and tracking. This technology empowers operators to engage both stationary and moving targets with remarkable accuracy. The fire-and-forget capability enables autonomous targeting, reducing operator exposure during engagements with lock-on before launch and automatic self-guidance. Additionally, certain variants of the Spike missile are equipped with heat-chasing technology.

Photo Credit: Military Today / Spike-SR

The Spike missile family comprises specific versions like the Spike-NLOS, Spike-ER, and Spike-LR, each designed to meet distinct mission requirements. These missiles are equipped with advanced warheads, ensuring effective penetration and target destruction. Some long-range iterations of the Spike feature the ‘Fire, Observe, and Update’ operating mode, also known as Lock-on after launch (LOAL). In this mode, a fibre-optical wire connects the missile to the launch position, enabling the operator to acquire a target not initially in the line of sight, switch targets in flight, or adjust for target movement if the missile is not tracking for any reason.

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The missile utilizes a tandem warhead system, comprising two shaped charges: a precursor (HEAT) warhead designed to trigger the detonation of explosive reactive armour and a primary warhead intended for penetrating the underlying armour. The Spike missile offers versatility by allowing the infantry to operate it directly from the launcher or mounting it on various vehicles such as fast attack vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, or utility vehicles. This configuration extends anti-tank capability to vehicles not typically equipped with such weaponry.

Overall, the system’s versatility, long-range capabilities, and robust design make the Spike Missile System a pivotal component in modern military arsenals, providing a reliable solution for anti-tank and ground-to-ground missions.

Photo Credit: Military Today

Variants of the Spike Missile System

Some notable variants of the missile system are tailored for specific operational requirements.

Spike-SR (Short Range): A Multi-Purpose, Man-Portable, Guided Missile System

Specifically designed for short-range engagements, typically up to 1.5 km. This variant is well-suited for infantry use, providing a lightweight and portable solution. Unlike some counterparts, the Spike-SR does not necessitate a separate sight. Instead, it utilizes a low-cost thermal camera and guidance electronics attached to the missile’s nose. This arrangement allows the display integrated into the launcher to showcase the target until launch. The Spike-SR is a low-cost, Fire & Forget, Man-portable, short-range, guided missile system that is highly lethal against various targets.

Photo Credit: Military Today
Key Features of Spike-SR:
  • Effective Range:  50m to 800m
  • Fire & Forget
  • Fire from confined spaces
  • IIR uncooled sensor
  • Two-stage warhead
  • Easy target lock-on
  • Lightweight system: 9kg
  • Maintenance free
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Spike – MR/LR: A New Generation Multi-Purpose, Guided Weapons System

Spike-MR (Medium Range): This variant, weighing 14kg, provides a balance between range and portability, making it suitable for infantry, special forces, and light combat vehicles. It can engage targets within a range of a minimum of 200 meters to a maximum of 2.5 kilometres.

Spike-LR (Long Range): Optimized for longer-range engagements, the Spike-LR variant has a range of 4 to 5 kilometres. It is often employed for anti-tank missions. This variant is commonly utilized by infantry on light combat vehicles. It incorporates fibre-optic communication (Lock-on after launch-LOAL) to and from the operator during flight.

Spike MR/LR Key Features:

  • Autonomous Fire & Forget mode ensures high operator survivability
  • CCD & IIR sensors allow day/night and adverse weather engagement of stationary & moving targets
  • Tandem warhead, lofted trajectory, high accuracy and high kill probability
  • Easy to use: Acquire Target – Lock On – Fire
  • Low Life Cycle Cost ( LCC ) makes the SPIKE affordable to maintain & operate
SPIKE-LR

Fibre-optic data link enables the operator to observe & update during flight and provides the unique ability to:

  • Change targets after the launch
  • Attack concealed targets
  • Achieve urban warfare precision
  • Perform real-time surveillance and damage assessment
  • Achieve extended range and pinpoint accuracy
  • Minimize collateral damage
  • Abort mission after launch

Spike-MR/LR Specifications:

  • Length: 1,200 mm (3 ft 11 in)
  • Diameter: 130 mm (5.1 in)
  • Weight: Missile in canister: 14 kg (30 lb)
  • Weight: Launcher:  12.8 kg
  • Effective RangeSpike-MR: 200–2,500 m and Spike-LR: 200–4,000 m / Spike-LR II: 200–5,500 m
  • Warhead: Tandem-charge HEAT warhead
  • Engine: Solid propellant rocket
  • Guidance: Infrared homing – Electro-optical (CCD, imaging infrared (IIR), or dual CCD/IIR) seeker
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The Italian Army’s 8th Bersaglieri Regiment conducted a Spike ATGM launch during an exercise at Capo Teulada.

The Spike-ER (Extended Range)

Is an advanced, multi-purpose, electro-optic missile system, especially suited for combat helicopters and also used by infantry on light Combat Vehicles (LCVs). The system is larger in diameter and heavier than the other systems, highly effective at extended ranges from 400 meters up to 8000 meters. The system consists of Spike-ER missiles and launchers. The ER system is specially designed for urban warfare, ground support (anti-tank), and special missions with maximum survivability.

The Spike-ER’s Fire & Forget mode of operation enables the pilot to rapidly launch the missile, which autonomously flies toward the target. The Fire, Observe & Update mode allows the pilot to lock onto the target (LOBL), launch the missile, lower the mask, and follow the seeker video image using a fibre-optic communication link. During the flight, the pilot can update the aimpoint or change targets. The Fire & Steer mode empowers the pilot to launch the missile without pre-locking onto the target and then steer the missile towards the target or lock on after launch (LOAL).

Open-source illustrative image

Advanced Features and Benefits of the Spike-ER Missile

  • Day/night and adverse weather capabilities
  • High hit/kill probability at all ranges
  • Multi-purpose warheads
  • Electro-optic CCD or dual ( CCD/IIR ) seekers
  • Low or Lofted trajectories
  • Mask-down capability and stand-off range for maximum helicopter survivability

Advanced Capabilities – Fire & Forget Plus: The combination of an electro-optic seeker (CCD or IIR) and the fibre-optic data link provides the unique ability to:

  • Change targets after the launch
  • Attack concealed targets
  • Achieve urban warfare precision
  • Perform real-time surveillance and damage assessment
  • Achieve extended range and pinpoint accuracy
  • Minimize collateral damage
  • Abort mission after launch
Photo Credit: Rafael / Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk firing Spike NLOS missile

Spike-ER and Spike-ER II Heli-Launcher for Combat Helicopters: Equipped with a full helicopter interface, it can host up to 4 missiles within their canisters. It manages all aspects of missile operation, including missile selection and activation, down and uplinks, and the firing sequence. The launcher is connected to the helicopter (such as the Black Hawk above) pylon via a standard 14″ interface using lugs and sway braces.

Spike-ER Specifications:

  • Effective Range:  400m – 8 km / ER-II: 16 km (9.9 mi) from helicopters
  • Length – Missile in canister:  1670 mm
  • Diameter – Missile in canister:  170 mm
  • Weight – Missile in canister:  33kg
  • Weight – Launcher:  55kg
  • Weight – Launcher & Four Missile:  187kg
  • Warhead: Tandem-charge HEAT warhead
  • Engine: Solid propellant rocket
  • Guidance: Infrared homing – Electro-optical (CCD, imaging infrared (IIR), or dual CCD/IIR) seeker
Photo Credit: Rafael

Spike NLOS: A New Generation Multi-Purpose, Guided Weapons System

This Non-Line-Of-Sight variant is distinguished by its capacity to engage targets beyond the operator’s line of sight, offering extended-range capabilities with a claimed maximum range of 25 km (16 mi) for precision strikes against various targets. Significantly larger than other Spike variants, it has an overall weight of approximately 70 kg (150 lb). Launchable from the ground or helicopters, the Spike NLOS utilizes a fibre optic link similar to other Spike versions, extending out to 8 km, beyond which it employs a radio data link for command guidance.

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Rafael is actively enhancing the missile’s versatility by integrating semi-active laser (SAL) capability into the existing EO-IR/CCD seeker, along with different anti-armour, blast-penetration, and high-explosive fragmentation warheads tailored for specific applications. The unit cost of the Spike NLOS as of 2021 is $210,000.

In 2020, the United States Army unveiled its intentions to procure Spike NLOS missiles for integration into Apache helicopters. A pivotal test in March 2021 showcased the capabilities of the AH-64E Apache, which successfully fired a Spike NLOS missile, achieving a direct hit on a target positioned 32 km (20 mi) away. Fast forward to June 2022, Rafael introduced the 6th generation of the Spike NLOS, featuring an extended range of 50 km (31 mi). This upgraded version includes a salvo capability, enabling the simultaneous launch of up to four missiles, and the unique ability to transfer control to another platform after firing.

Photo Credit: Rafael Advanced Systems.

Notably, it is equipped with Target Image Acquisition functionality, allowing for the prioritization of vital targets for precision strikes. Furthermore, this versatile missile can be effectively deployed by strategic UAVs in the Heron-TP class. The system is equipped with real-time targeting capabilities, providing operators with up-to-date information to make informed decisions during engagements.

In conclusion, the Spike missile system represents a paradigm shift in guided weapons systems, showcasing a new generation of capabilities designed to meet the demands of modern warfare. With its extended range, fire-and-forget technology, and versatile multi-purpose design, the Spike variants stand as a testament to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ commitment to innovation in precision-guided munitions.

Its adaptability across various platforms, real-time targeting, and precision guidance features underscore its effectiveness in diverse operational scenarios. As military technology continues to evolve, the Spike remains at the forefront, providing armed forces with a potent and reliable solution for engaging a wide range of targets with unprecedented accuracy and lethality.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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