Rafael revamps anti-tank missile for longer range, more firepower

Israel’s Rafael defense contractor on Thursday unveiled a new version of its anti-tank missile, the Spike NLOS.

The sixth-generation missile was touted by the Israeli arms manufacturer as now having the capability to be launched in a salvo of up to four missiles, and an extended range of 50 kilometers (31 miles) when launched by helicopter.

The missile has a 32-kilometer (20-mile) range when launched from a ground-based system. A single operator will now be able to launch up to four missiles at once, which “significantly increases the gamut of long-range targets that can be hit, and thereby strengthens the element of surprise,” the company said.

Additional features in the latest generation of the Spike NLOS included what the company called a “hand over” mode, where the missile can be launched by one system and then controlled by another, seamlessly.

In a simulated demonstration, the company showed a scenario in which a missile is launched by a helicopter that then flies away to avoid an enemy air defense battery; a ground-based system swiftly takes over control of the missile to direct it toward the target.

The company said the missile can be fed with information on the fly, using UAVs and other aircraft which are flying high above a target. In previous generations of the Spike NLOS, an operator would have to manually enter target coordinates, which the company described as a “complex technical task.”

“With the help of images provided by various electro-optical sensors, the missile locates the target on its own, marks it, and helps the operator to neutralize it more accurately and simply,” the company said.

It said this feature would be especially helpful when attempting to hit a specific target among other similar targets in the same area, such as an enemy commander’s tank amid a platoon.

The missile was unveiled ahead of the Eurosatory defense expo, set to be held next week in Paris.

Spike anti-tank missiles are already in use by the Israel Defense Forces, where they are used under the name “Tammuz.”

Israeli arms sales in 2021 hit a record of $11.3 billion, with officials citing a sharp increase in demand for Israeli-made weapons.

In 2021, similar to previous years, Europe was the largest purchaser of Israeli defense goods, buying 41 percent of total exports.

Israeli companies exhibiting at the pavilion include Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries, IMI Systems, Israel Weapons Industries, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, among dozens of other smaller companies.

According to an independent global security think tank, Israel was ranked the 10th-largest international weapons exporter in the past five years.

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