A sharp weapon for over-the-horizon attacks, the Israeli “Spike” NLOS missile

A sharp weapon for over-the-horizon attacks, the Israeli “Spike” NLOS missile

Ordnance Technology (WeChat ID: binggongkeji)

Caption: Israeli “Spike” NLOS missile

In February 2019, Israel’s Rafael released a video of the Tomcar ultralight off-road vehicle launching the Spike NLOS missile for performance testing, demonstrating the Spike’s ability to deliver precision strikes on targets in a variety of ballistics (very low and very high trajectory). The live-fire test in the Negev in southern Israel increased the maximum range of the missile to 30 kilometers, making it an “over-the-horizon strike weapon” that attracted much attention from the world. In fact, this is just another demonstration of the “spike”, the latest member of the famous missile family.

Development overview

The Spike NLOS missile is a long-range anti-tank missile (ATGM) system developed by Rafael in Israel that has been widely used on a variety of launch platforms, including helicopters, tank destroyers, light vehicles, and even ships. NLOS is the abbreviation of “non-line-of-sight” in English, which means that missiles have “over-the-horizon” and indirect attack capabilities.

The development of the Spike NLOS missile system actually began in the mid-70s of the 20th century, and the appearance of this missile was clearly strongly influenced by the experience of the IDF in using anti-tank missiles during the “Yom Kippur War” (and the lessons of being hit by anti-tank missiles). In this war, IDF tank units suffered heavy losses (especially from Arab anti-tank missiles), and Israeli tank units accounted for more than 75% of all IDF casualties. The IDF’s own experience with anti-tank combat tends to occur at relatively close distances, so they need a weapon with a longer range. So the “Spike” anti-tank missile came into being.

The rectangular launch box used in the “Spike” NLOS missile

Basic performance

It is reported that the early version of the “Spike” NLOS missile (Mk.1) has been in service since 1981, which is greatly unexpected. The armor penetration of the missile is about 700 mm and the range is 25-30 km. The length of the missile is 1.67 meters, the length of the launch tube is 1.7 meters, the diameter of the missile is 0.17 meters, and the wingspan is 350 mm or 250 mm. The missile weighs 71 kg. The missile can choose from armor-breaking, high-explosive-fragmentation, high-explosive dual-purpose and other warheads. The guidance system uses infrared cameras, fiber optics and radio commands, etc.

The Spike NLOS missile has been available in five versions throughout its history, the latest model being the Mk.5, though details of the differences between all of these missiles have not been released. However, there are huge external differences between Mk.1 and Mk.5. Two different versions of the Spike NLOS have two completely different flank configurations. The older version of the Mk.1 had small triangular wings arranged in the middle of the projectile in a 90-degree cross shape with a rectangular trailing edge at the tail. The picture of the “Spike” NLOS Mk.5 missile currently provided by Raphael has two parallel sets of rectangular wings arranged in a 90-degree cross shape, with a long forward flap in the middle of the missile, and a shorter tail (almost square) near the engine nozzle. The wings are unfolded after firing, usually folded over the body of the projectile. The body of the projectile appears to have no change between the two generations of “Spike” NLOS missiles, both in the shape of a cylinder. The tip is made of a transparent glass-like material through which the target can be seen. Although the Spike non-direct aim missile is similar to other Spike missiles, the smaller fuselage length makes the missile look more bloated.

Towed launcher of the “Spike” NLOS missile

The Spike NLOS missile was launched from a rectangular metal launch box. The front cover of the launcher is fixed to the bottom with a hinge, which opens when the missile is about to be launched. A transmitting unit usually has several such launchers. The missile uses a missile-borne camera to observe and track the target and is connected to the launch platform via a tail optical fiber. The length of the fiber is only about 8 kilometers, and if the missile flies farther, it will tear off the fiber and be controlled by radio command instead. While this makes the Spike NLOS missile system vulnerable to interference over long distances, this trade-off is due to other technical problems caused by attempts to use 25 kilometers of fiber optics. Other smaller Spike missiles use a similar guidance mode, except for the infrared-guided Spike SR.

Israel’s “Spike” NLOS fiber-guided missile can also attack sea targets, which can be locked before launch or locked after launch, that is, “do not care after launch”, or “manage if you want”. The missile seeker transmits back the target screen through optical fiber, so that the missile operator can control and “watch” the missile flying towards the target and evaluate the strike effect. Its cameras have passive infrared imaging capabilities, which can detect the thermal signature of vehicles, infantry, helicopters, etc. from the background, enabling the missile to engage any enemy in almost any weather or visibility condition. The missile is powered by solid-fuel rocket motors. Given its ultra-long range, it is likely to be a two-stage rocket engine that enhances the power of the missile by flying along a high-arc trajectory. The shaped charge of the warhead is armor-breaking warhead, which is said to penetrate at least 700 mm of steel armor. This is enough for the “Spike” NLOS missile to penetrate the top armor of almost all tank armored vehicles in service. It is not known whether the missile is equipped with a front charge to detonate the explosive reactive armor in advance, but it is likely that recent models have this feature. Raphael also supplies spare warheads, including “penetrating explosive fragmentation” (PBF) warheads. It is a high-explosive dual-purpose warhead (HEDP) derived from the warhead design of the MAADOR rocket. HE-FRAG warheads, on the other hand, are suitable for soft targets (such as personnel).

Illustration: “Spike” NLOS missile shipborne version launch system


The “Long Spike” NLOS missile system has the advantages of long range, strong maneuverability, high strike accuracy, high level of informationization, wide range of application, and great development potential. The system is equipped with a radio communication system and a dual-channel data link, which can receive target position information transmitted back from external sensors such as drones through the network-centric warfare (NCW) system, and the target area image obtained by the photoelectric guidance system can also be transmitted back to the transmitter controller through the wireless data link. Although this method may reduce control reliability due to radio interference, its control distance and use flexibility are higher than the original system. The missile also has the ability to strike at moving targets, and the actual combat effect is remarkable, and its development model will undoubtedly be imitated by many countries.

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