Fire-and-Forget Anti-Tank Guided Missile System (ATGM)
The Israeli Rafael Spike fire-and-forget anti-tank missile system was introduced in 1997 and has since seen considerable export.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
With a relatively short - though deep - history of tank warfare, the Israeli Army has been on the cutting edge of related developments intended to defeat the armor of the opposition. This had led to such systems as the Rafael "Spike" to be adopted and additionally passed on to interested allied parties around the globe. The Spike began development in 1987 and officially appeared in 1997 and has since seen frontline service with Israeli forces in the Second Intifada (2000-2005), the 2006 Lebanon War (2006) and in operations centered around Gaza (2008-2009). Allies have utilized the type in the ongoing war in Afghanistan which began in with the US-led invasion through Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-Present). Production of the Spike system is ongoing as of this writing (2013) and is handled by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Diehl BGT Defence (the latter as part of Rheinmetall Defence Electronics). The Diehl/Rheinmetall connection has allowed Israel to market the weapon through European channels to a much broader world audience (as the "EuroSpike"). The Spike system can be actuated through a conventional tripod support assembly or as a vehicle-mounted weapon (ground-based or fired from helicopter platforms). The launch tube is reusable and fires a 170mm rocket-powered missile.
The Spike compares favorably to other modern tank-defeating battlefield systems such as the American FGM-148 "Javelin". It utilizes a fire-and-forget missile design which is initially guided via an integrated fiber optic cable. The missile is projected by way of a solid-fuel rocket while the principle guidance system is of infrared homing, passive or dual seeker design depending on missile type. The included sights allow for 10x magnification and maximum range of some missile versions reach out to 25,000 meters. A trained crew can ready the launcher to fire in just 30 seconds with reloads handled within 15 seconds. To contend with increased use of Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) blocks on modern combat vehicles (including Main Battle Tanks), the Spike missile relies on the proven effectiveness of a tandem-charge HEAT (High-Explosive, Anti-Tank) warhead through impact detonation. This allows the ERA protection to be cleared before the primary warhead charge reacts against the baseline armor protection of a vehicle - thusly improving penetration value.
The Spike system consists of five key components - the launcher, tripod support assembly (if equipped), powerpack, thermal sighting device and missile. The launcher is known by the name of Command & Launch Unit (CLU) and makes up a bulk of the operating weight. Missiles vary in their available weights and capabilities based on customer requirements and field performance, therefore, also varies in turn.
The system is available in four basic versions spanning a short, medium, long and extended long range forms. The Spike-SR is the short-ranged version which allows for firing from buildings while also utilizing a reduced weight design for portability. Maximum engagement range is 800 meters. The Spike-MR is the medium-ranged offering (2,500 meters) which can be considered the standard-use Spike model. The Spike-LR is the long-ranged variant which reaches out to 4,000 meters. The Spike-ER is the extended range model which allows for engagement of targets out to 8,000 meters. The Spike is offered in two other notable forms - the Spike NLOS ("Non Line-Of-Sight") for very extreme ranges and does not rely on the limitations of line-of-sight guidance (or crew exposure) and the "Mini-Spike" which is marketed as an anti-personnel weapon of lighter weight and compact dimensions.
The Spike has been adopted by the forces of Belgium, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Spain the United Kingdom and others. The weapon has also been evaluated by a handful of interested powers including India, Thailand and Turkey.
August 2018 - The Rafael Spike ATGM has been successfully test-fired by the Philippine Navy from a moving patrol boat from 6 kilometers - with reportedly accurate results.