Spike Missiles for Spain
The Spike missile family is designed around 2 key principles: low life cycle cost, and simple but reliable operation. Low life cycle cost comes from keeping prices down for all components by using “good enough” solutions that offer high quality without gold plating. The high-end option of integrated training as part of the system is included, however, because it improves the system’s cost profile over its entire lifetime. While Spike is less capable in some ways than high-end missiles like the Javelin, it’s also far more affordable, and hence useful as a more readily available fire-support option. The 2006 Lebanon war saw guided anti-armor missiles employed as a substitute for artillery, a role in which even very old designs like the AT-3 proved highly useful.
In Spain, 2007 was the Year of the Spike. January 2007, Spain chose Spike-LR as the next-generation anti-armor missile to equip its army and marines, as the RAFAEL/ General Dynamics partnership beat MBDA’s Milan-ER and the Raytheon/Lockheed Javelin. In December 2007, Spain bookended its earlier commitment with approval for the larger Spike-ER to equip its helicopter force – and that contract is now signed and detailed…
RAFAEL’s Spike Missiles
The Spike infantry system consists of a missile in its cannister, a tripod, a Command Launch Unit that contains the optics and firing system, and a battery. It can go from “off” to firing in less than 30 seconds, as the operator lays the cross hairs on the aim point using either the 10x day sight or the clip-on thermal imaging night sight. After launch the missile follows a lofted trajectory, hitting the target in a terminal dive using either a tandem high-explosive warhead that can defeat explosive reactive armor. The lofted trajectory also allows the missile to hit targets that are behind earthen walls or otherwise not directly visible in line of sight. Reloading takes less than 15 seconds.
Vehicle variants include launch mountings and a control console, though Spike has been integrated into missile-capable weapons systems and turrets. It is popular in unmanned turrets like Elbit’s ORCWS-30, and RAFAEL’s RCWS-30 for infantry fighting vehicles and its naval Typhoon
The Spike family comes in 3 main variants – MR (medium range), LR (long range), and ER (extended range):
Spike-MR is fire & forget for autonomous-guided medium range target engagement up to 2,500m (1.5 miles), using an imaging infrared (IIR) seeker. It also has an optional fully guided mode, using a fiber optic link. Spike-MR is designed as an infantry-only weapon, and weighs 26 kg/ 57.2 pounds when fully assembled (13.3 kg missile in cannister, 5 kg CLU, 4 kg Thermal Sight, 1 kg missile, 2.8 kg tripod).
Spike-LR is the same size, and uses the same components, but extends the missile’s range to 4000m/ 2.4 miles. A bi-directional fiber-optic data link is standard in the Spike-LR, allowing the gunner to watch the video taken by the missile seeker before and in-flight for more precise targeting or guidance to the end of its range. IIR Fire & Forget mode for “shoot and scoot” tactics is also a built-in option. Spike-LR can be used by infantry, and is also suitable for mounting on vehicles, remote weapons systems, and small boats. Spain’s army and marines will use Spike-LR.
Spike-ER (Extended Range) to be used by Spain’s helicopters has a maximum range of 8,000m / 4.8 miles, and is equipped with the same guidance options as Spike-LR. It’s a larger diameter (170mm vs. 130mm) missile with a larger warhead, however, weighing in at 33 kg/ 72.6 pounds in its cannister. Understandably, Spike-ER is a vehicle-mounted weapon. RAFAEL’s promotions to Spain took care to highlight its low collateral damage characteristics due to the missile’s very high accuracy, post-launch abort feature, and optional PBF (Penetration, Blast and Fragmentation) warhead that explodes only after target penetration.
In June 2004, a joint venture company, Eurospike GmbH, was formed by RAFAEL, Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (formerly STN Atlas Elektronik) and Diehl Munitionssysteme (DMS). While Eurospike GmbH is the prime contractor for the Spike family of missiles in Europe, the Spanish deal involves a local production agreement with General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas, who has experience producing Spain’s previous generation HOT helicopter-launched and Milan man-portable anti-armor missiles.
Countries using RAFAEL’s Spike missiles in various capacities now include Israel, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Spain, plus “some South American countries and others.”
Contracts & Key Events
Jan 28/08: General Dynamics European Land Systems announces that its General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas operations in Spain has signed a EUR 40 million (about $64 million) contract with the Spanish Army for the supply of 44 Air Land Spike-ER Missile System launchers and 200 missiles for Spain’s Tiger HAD helicopters.
In addition, General Dynamics Santa Barbara Sistemas will provide integrated logistics support (ILS). Work is expected to be complete by 2012. GD release.
Dec 11/07: RAFAEL sends an email notice stating that in a Nov 30/07 meeting, the Spanish Council of Ministers has authorized the signing of a EUR 44 million follow-on acquisition contract for Spike-ER Air-Land missiles systems to equip their 24 Tiger HAD attack/scout helicopters. The contract will be paid over the budgetary period 2007-2012.
Spain has now standardized both anti-air (MBDA Mistral) and anti-armor (RAFAEL Spike) missiles across its helicopter and land forces.
Integration of the Spike missiles into the Tiger HAD variant is estimated to cost about EUR 30 million, and Santa Barbara Sistemas will require approximately a year to make factory improvements at El Fargue as it gears up for the production levels required. Deliveries of Spike missile under Spain’s contracts are expected to begin in 2008.
Jan 10/07: RAFAEL and General Dynamics Santa Barbara Systems of Spain announce a $424.5 million contract with the Spanish Army for 2,600 SPIKE-LR missiles and 260 launchers missile systems. In addition to their anti-armor uses, their guidance system also allows the operator to target slow-flying aerial targets like helicopters and UAVs. The missiles will equip Spain’s land forces, including infantry, vehicles, and helicopters. Deliveries will take place from 2007-2014.
Additional Readings & Sources
- Army Technology – Spike Anti-Armour Missile System, Israel
- RAFAEL – SPIKE – Multi-Purpose Family of Missiles.
- Eurospike GmbH
- Air Force Technology – Tiger Attack Helicopter, Europe
- Jane’s (June 15/06, Eurosatory Day 4) – Spike-ER + Tiger = deadly accuracy
- Europa Press (Dec 7/07) – España armara¡ sus helicopteros de combate ‘Tigre’ con los misiles israelies ‘Spike ER’
- Ideal (Nov 13/07) “Defensa armara¡ los helicopteros ‘Tigre’ con misiles israelies ensamblados en El Fargue.”
- Eurocopter (Sept 3/07) – The Tiger combat helicopter – a force for unity. Tells the story of the Tiger program’s genesis and development, from the 1980s to the present. In a sense, it grew up along with the Franco-German EADS partnership. By September 2007, 26 Tigers had been delivered to the 4 international customers: France (10 HAP), Australia (7 ARH), Germany (6 UHT) and Spain (3 HAP).