Rafael's family of Spike missiles

The Spike NLOS works perfectly in conjunction with different sensors that can provide real time target data. This is especially true when the missile is receiving data from unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).

1st Jul 2010


It started as a basic man-portable anti tank missile but today the Spike - developed by Rafael in Israel - is a growing family that has moved a long way from its basic mission and has turned into one of the most versatile families of weapons that are aimed at destroying high value targets.


This family is growing all the time as the Rafael experts identify more diverse operational requirements .

The Israeli company has recently unveiled its longest version of the Spike yet – the beyond-line-of-sight version of the fiber-optical guided missile. This version has an effective range of 25 km. It is already used by certain units of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Like the previous versions, the launch can be made from land air or sea.


Rafael is very careful about keeping the Spike as a "family" with built- in growth potential, and therefore the new non line of sight (NLOS) version can be equipped with all the warheads that fit the shorter range members of the family.


The Spike NLOS works perfectly in conjunction with different sensors that can provide real time target data. This is especially true when the missile is receiving data from unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).


Israeli defence sources say that UAVs are becoming one of the main sources for real time target data for quick reaction weapon systems like the Spike multi purpose missiles.


Spike was first unveiled almost 2 decades ago in 1990. Initially the Spike was dubbed an anti amour missile but soon gained the more correct label of a multi purpose weapon.

It is now considered one if not the most versatile missile in its category.They have gained great respect from the professionals in many armies and are currently they are operated by Israel, several Asian and Latin American countries, as well as by a number of NATO countries, including Poland, Spain, Italy, Romania, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Spike missiles were also selected to equip the German Puma tracked armoured fighting vehicle.


According to Rafael, 16 countries in total have purchased the different versions of the Spike missile family and more than 10,000 have been supplied. 2000 of them were fired in training and combat action to date.


The fact that so many countries are using the Spike missiles has resulted in a "users club" that according to Rafael is focusing on joint training systems and procedures.


In recent months, negotiations between Rafael and some other NATO armies that are interested in deploying the company's Spike-ER missile on their attack helicopters have been accelerated.


The missile is already operational on the Tiger helicopters operated by the Spanish armed forces, on the Puma helicopters operated by Romania and on Israeli airforce (IAF) helicopters. Lova Drori , Rafael's VP marketing said that most armed forces initially begin to evaluate the Spike because they need a good urban warfare tool "the wire control enables attack abortion or target change, two very important factors in urban fighting".


The missile has a maximum range of 8 km, and can be launched in different modes. The fire and forget mode is the basic one and has operational limitations. The second mode is the fire, observe & update one, which allows the gunner to lock on a target, launch and then update the data based on the images relayed to the cockpit through the fiber optic data link. The third mode is the fire & steer one. It allows the gunner to launch without pre-lock on the target, and then steer the missile to the a target that was selected prior or after launch according to real time data.


The Spike-ER's lofted trajectory enables its CCD\IIR sensor to relay an image of the target area before impact. This allows the gunner to use the optical data to change targets according to the evolving situation. The seeker of the missile allows the gunner real time battle damage assessment (BDA) which is a basis for target selection in an evolving combat scenario.The missile is offered with a variety of warheads designed to destroy tanks with special armor as well as other reinforced targets. The Spike-ER is 1.67 meters long, has a diameter of 17 cm and weighs 33 kgs.


According to Rafael the relatively slow velocity of the Spike-ER, and the fiber optic data link, allows "pin point" accuracy in adverse visibility and night conditions.
The missile uses a dual EO seeker, that is very effective in engaging targets in day and night, utilizing 'fire and forget' or 'fire and update' operating modes. This according to Rafael , enables the operator to home in precisely on a target in the terminal phase of the trajectory.


The Spike family includes: Spike-SR with a range of 800m, Spike-MR (Gill) with range of 2,500m, Spike-LR with a 4,000m range and Spike-ER (formerly known as NTD) with a range of 8,000m. The new version has a range of 25 km.


Rafael will not discuss any future versions at tha point but said that the Spike family has a “built in” growth potential.
The popularity of the Spike missiles has created a number of joint ventures that allowed the introduction of the missiles into the service of many armed services and that trend is still continuing.


In June 2004, a joint venture company, Eurospike GmbH, was formed by Rafael with Rheinmetall Defence Electronics and Diehl Munitions systeme (DMS). This followed a cooperation agreement signed by the three companies in November 1998. Eurospike GmbH is the prime contractor for the Spike family of missiles in Europe.


In May 2000, the Finnish Army selected the Spike-MR system. In August 2001, the Dutch Ministry of Defence ordered the Spike-MR (Gill) missile system to replace the Dragon missile of the Army and Marine Corps. Rafael is the prime contractor, with Rheinmetall, Diehl and Thales Nederland (formerly Signaal) the major subcontractors.


In January 2004, Poland signed a contract with ZM Mesko for the purchase of the Spike-LR missile system. ZM Mesko is manufacturing subsystems of the missiles and is in charge of final assembly. Deliveries began in November 2004 and will be completed in 2013. Poland also requires 160 systems to be integrated on the Oto Melara HITFIST 30 turret mounted on Patria armored modular vehicles. The system is also being evaluated by the Romanian Army.


In December 2006, the government of Spain ordered 260 launchers and 2,600 Spike-LR missiles, to replace Milan and Dragon missiles. General Dynamics Santa Barbara was appointed the local producer of the missiles. Spain then made another order for Spike-ER missiles to equip its 24 Tiger attack helicopters.
In December 2008, PSM and the German Ministry of Defence signed a contract to integrate the Spike missile system on the Puma armored infantry fighting vehicle being developed for the German Army. This was the first time that such an installation was made and according to Rafael the market wants more such installations. “There are many good platforms that can be fitted with our missiles “ Lova Drori said.

Spike-MR and Spike-LR have the same firing post that is contributing to the systems' commonality. The firing post consists of the command launch Unit (CLU), the thermal imaging sight and a tripod.

The system is made ready to fire in less than 30 seconds. The soldier acquires the target and puts the crosshairs of the sight on the aim point on the target using either the day sight with a 10× magnification and 5° field of view or the clip-on thermal imaging night sight with wide and narrow fields of view.


In fire-and-forget mode, the soldier activates the missile, locking the tracker on the target and pulls the trigger. The missile automatically propels itself towards the target without any additional intervention. This fire-and-forget capability allows the soldier the option of relocating to a new firing position or to reload immediately for the next engagement. According to Rafael, reloading takes less than 15 seconds.


After launch the missile follows a lofted trajectory and as it approaches the target it dives down to impact the target. The lofted trajectory and the tandem high explosive warhead enable the missile to penetrate tanks equipped with explosive reactive amour.


Spike-LR, which can also be installed on light combat vehicles, can be used to engage tanks, armored vehicles, hardened shelters and low flying slow targets such as helicopters. Lova Drori said that the accuracy of the Spike-MR and LR is "very high" and that the fiber optic control allows to accurately hit – for example - the commander’s turret of an armored vehicle.


"The fiber optics allows another very important thing – battle damage assessment" Drori said.Rafael in all their presentations emphasize that the MR and LR versions have a lofted trajectory that is very important when a target is located in a built area and the requirement is for the smallest amount of collateral damage. This in recent years has become almost a mandatory requirement.


Drori said that the warheads of the Spike family of missiles are being upgraded continuously but refused to elaborate.
With the ongoing upgrades of the Spike missiles and the new versions Rafael expects more clients “in all parts of the world"; Drori was only ready to say that negotiations are underway with "new potential clients ".

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