4th Generation Stand-off Precision for light and heavy attack helicopters
In Today’s rapidly changing battlefield, the combat helicopter still holds a central and important role. The combat helicopter is a valuable asset for the military commander both in defense and offence missions. The combat helicopter (commonly referred to as gunship) provides dynamic direct and accurate close air support for ground troops, destroys enemy armored vehicle concentrations and is also used as an armed scout.
The relative light weight of the SPIKE missiles and simple stand-alone integration capability of Rafael enable the mounting of SPIKE Missiles on multirole helicopters, thus maximizing the helicopter capabilities.
In today’s combat helicopter market Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. Is a leading supplier and integrator of a full armament upgrade package called the SWS Package (SPIKE Weapon System), including both 4th generation stand-off Precision Guided electro-optical Missiles in different weights and ranges up to 30km, EO devices (in different weights and capabilities), Guided/unguided Rocket interface, Command & Control interfaces for pilot situation awareness, HMDs (Helmet-Mounted Displays for cueing of SPIKE Seeker and EOS to pilot head orientation) and even heliborne broadband Digital Data-link for continues communication between the different squadron’s helicopters. Rafael’s background in this field has been proven both as a subcontractor for Helicopter OEMs such as Augusta Westland or Airbus Helicopters, and as the prime integrator for a standalone armament package with simple interface and no dramatic alterations to the helicopter.
The relative light weight of the SPIKE missiles and simple stand-alone integration capability of Rafael enable the mounting of SPIKE Missiles on multirole helicopters, thus maximizing the helicopter capabilities. A good example for this is in the ARPIA 4 Project in Colombia, in which Rafael acted as a prime integrator to integrate SPIKE onto the air force’s ARPIA 4 Helicopter (Blackhawk UH60). The suite included three types of SPIKE missiles (NLOS, ER and LR), advanced EOS (TOPLITE 3HD), stand-alone HMI, including Moving-Map application, helicopter collision warning application, a digital Data link, as well as integration of the existing 70mm Rockets and GAU19 Gun to Rafael weapon suite.
Air force, army and navy aviation squadrons are now starting to understand that this type of upgrade can convert a dozen multirole helicopters into capable modernly-armed gunships, using the same budget that used to buy only two new combat helicopters.
The SPIKE family is in use today by 26 armies, navies, air forces and Special Forces around the world…
The SPIKE Missile family
The SPIKE Missile family of Precision Weapon Systems has been operational and combat-proven for over two decades. The SPIKE missile is an off-the-shelf 4th generation Precision Guided Missile which includes an electro-optical seeker and a bi-directional Datalink, enabling ultra high accuracy and enhanced lethality. The Family is in use today by 26 armies, navies, air forces and Special Forces around the world, with thousands of SPIKE missiles fired both in training and combat. These advanced products are offered today to the Indian armed forces in different applications.
The SPIKE Family includes the following off-the-shelf products:
- SPIKE NLOS™ (Non Line Of Sight) –30km–75 kg
- SPIKE ER™ (Extended Range) –8km –34 kg.
- SPIKE MR/LR™ (Long Range) –2.5 to 4km– 13kg.
The SPIKE missiles are multi-purpose, multi-platform and have already accumulated a vast track record of target engagements such as enemy tanks, armored vehicles, soft vehicles, incoming maneuvering armored VIEDs (Vehicle Improvised Explosive Devices), static and mobile radars, marine vessels, enemy anti tank / mortar squads and of course structural targets (such as enemy ammunition storage, enemy forward-based headquarters or enemy infrastructure).
For the combat helicopter, the main advantage of the SPIKE Family is the ultra long stand-off Range & Non-Line-of Sight attack capability which increases aircraft survivability dramatically (in comparison to laser guided munitions which force the pilot to get very close to the target) and the passiveness of the EO seeker, unlike the laser guided munitions which can be detected upon lasing on the objective.
The upgrade package includes Generic SPIKE launchers that can carry all SPIKE Family missiles (LR, ER, NLOS) thus allowing tactical flexibility, reducing Integrations costs and enabling usage of existing customer SPIKE missile arsenal.
The SPIKE NLOS Missile has already been integrated onto different combat helicopters such as the naval AW-159, the Blackhawk, the Apache Longbow and others.
The SPIKE Weapon System –Armed Suite for helicopters
SPIKE NLOS -30 km
SPIKE NLOS Missile Weapon System is a true force multiplier enabling engagement of targets up to 30 km (!) in day, night and adverse weather. One of today’s biggest operational challenges for the combat helicopters squadrons is the rising availability of MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) and in general – ground fire. Most Laser guided rockets and missiles requires Line of sight of the designating helicopter to the target. This limits the possible range, and exposes the combat helicopter to enemy fire. SPIKE NLOS Long Range enables to attack a target without the need to close range on the target and enter the danger zone.
The system provides the upgraded helicopter with the unique ability to engage targets at significant stand-off range with no line of sight. The SPIKE NLOS weapon system can be operated in either direct attack upon target detection using either LOBL / LOAL Modes or firing from standoff in automatic navigation mode based on operator input of target coordinates (based on missile embedded INS unit). An encrypted bi-directional advanced RF data link enables transmission of the missile seeker video image to the operator as well as real-time updating or steering of the missile FOV. This method has proved so precise that it is used for engagement of targets in very crowded urban terrain effectively, with minimum collateral damage.
The Missile includes various warhead configurations such as anti-tank, fragmentation or anti structural/anti-ship warheads. SPIKE NLOS is a perfect solution for Naval Helicopters. The 30 km range, enhanced precision, cost-effectiveness and relatively light weight make it an excellent tactical solution as an Air-to-Sea Precision-Guided Missile (in comparison to existing air to sea missiles which are very heavy). The SPIKE NLOS Missile has already been integrated onto different combat helicopters such as the naval AW-159, the Blackhawk, the Apache Longbow and others. The number of rounds that can be fired is only limited to the carrying capacity of the combat helicopters. The Blackhawk, for example can carry up to 16 SPIKE NLOS Rounds which is overwhelming firepower for one Gunship.
…providing a secure data link for real-time feed of seeker video image to the platform, allowing the operator to “Fire and Observe” (F&O) with no line of sight to target…
SPIKE ER (Extended Range) – 8 km
The SPIKE ER Missile Weapon System is a light Multi-purpose missile system for operation up to 8KM. The light weight of the SPIKE ER round (only 34 kg) enables mounting it on almost any light helicopters (such as the Indian Army’s ALH) as well as on heavier combat helicopters. SPIKE ER Missile includes an advanced electro-optical seeker with a robust target tracker with “Fire & Forget” (F&O) capability, allowing the combat helicopter to “shoot and scoot” or engage multiple targets over a very short time. Laser guided rockets/missiles or second generation wire guided missiles require continuous target acquisition during the whole missile flight, thus exposing the helicopter to ground fire for dozens of seconds in any engagement. Using the SPIKE ER, the pilot can issue multiple firing with almost no time between the engagements or fire, and immediately disengage.
The SPIKE ER bi-directional data link is based on unique fiber-optic-based technology, providing a secure data link for real-time feed of seeker video image to the platform, allowing the operator to “Fire and Observe” (F&O) with no line of sight to target, and pinpoint the impact, thus controlling the required effect (destroy, neutralize or disable). SPIKE ER is multi-purpose and includes a variety of warheads such as anti-tank or anti-structure/anti-ship. The SPIKE ER has also been integrated on several different helicopters internationally, such as the formidable AW-129 (Mangusta), the veteran Cobra (AH1), the rigid Blackhawk (UH60), the proud Puma (SA330), the deadly Tiger and more. The SPIKE ER is being offered today to the Indian army aviation and air force as a new advanced armament suite for the ALH helicopters, transforming HAL’s helicopter to a capable modern Precision tank killer.
Due to its extremely high precision, the SPIKE took out the target with no collateral damage.
SPIKE LR (Long Range)
SPIKE LR Missile Weapon System is today one of the backbones of the ground assault element in more than 21 armies. This is a light portable Multi-purpose missile system for engagement of targets within ranges of up to 4 km. The SPIKE LR round weighs only 13kg and is used primarily in ground deployment either in infantry units or can be vehicle-mounted. The SPIKE LR missile shares many of the same features of the SPIKE ER, such as the F&F/F&O capabilities and the real-time fiber-optic data link. A rising trend amongst SPIKE missile customers (with today’s limited defense budgets) is to try to utilize existing assets. For this reason, Rafael was asked by several customers to integrate the SPIKE LR Missiles to a local combat helicopter, thus utilizing an existing arsenal of thousands of missiles and providing a common arsenal of SPIKE missiles to the different armed forces (air force, army, navy) of the customer. The SPIKE LR and SPIKE MR (which in the near future be used by the army infantry and will be produced locally) are basically the same missile with the only difference being the fiber optic data link. This commonality is very important when “make in India” is a basic part of any armament procurement.
Precise Discriminate, Proportional Close-Air-Support
The SPIKE missile operators have learned first-hand how capable the weapon system is. In one example, a target detected as an anti-tank launcher was engaged at a range of more than 10km. As the missile approached the target, seconds before impact, the combat helicopter pilot via the RF Data link noticed the writing “TV” on the vehicle (identifying the vehicle to be a media crew or journalists) and immediately steered the missile seeker to the ground, thus aborting the mission in real-time. This type of capability to discriminate friend from foe or from uninvolved by-standers is one the many advantages of the system in the battlefield.
In another example, a combat helicopter pilot detected an enemy multi-barrel rocket launcher firing from within an urban environment. The launcher was located within a populated neighborhood, thus using its civilians as human shields. Due to its extremely high precision, the SPIKE took out the target with no collateral damage.