Global Demand: Rafael's Spike anti-tank guided missile launches from a Samson remote weapon station. Israeli industry is finding increasing global markets for its precision arsenal. (Rafael)
TEL AVIV — Standoff artillery, laser-guided bombs, precision tank rounds and a host of other weapons initially developed for the Israeli military are proliferating on the global market as demand grows for operationally proven precision strike capabilities.
Israeli industry executives cite an expanding roster of international customers and strategic partners seeking accurate, lethal and low-cost tools for combating urban insurgents and so-called disappearing targets with minimal damage to uninvolved civilians.
Rafael’s Tammuz, a standoff missile used to target rocket-launching squads and renegade cross-border fire from Syria, and Elbit Systems’ Lizard laser-guided bombs, used in Israel Air Force strikes on Gaza weapons warehouses, are just two of the many locally developed systems deployed by militaries on nearly every continent.
South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced Jan. 10 it would equip new AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat maritime attack helicopters with Rafael’s non-line-of-sight (NLOS) Spike missiles, the international brand name for the Israeli Tammuz.
Officials in Seoul quoted by the South Korean press said the Israeli missiles launched from helicopters or Humvees would support targeting operations against rocket launchers, artillery tubes and commando forces attempting to invade from the north.
Ron Kaplan, marketing manager for Rafael’s Tactical Precision Weapon Systems Directorate, declined comment on the South Korean program. But he said the company has 20-some customers for original, long-range and NLOS versions of Spike, including Chile, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.
Designed for launch from wheeled or tracked ground vehicles and a variety of helicopters, the electro-optically guided Spike NLOS offers three types of warheads — anti-armor, penetration blast fragmentation and fragmentation — for fire-and-forget strikes from ranges up to 25 kilometers.
In a Jan. 13 interview, Kaplan said Rafael recently added a laser detector to the electro-optic seeker to improve effectiveness against time-sensitive, so-called targets of opportunity.
“We’re augmenting all the advantages of our electro-optical seeker with laser homing, which makes it easier to engage in some scenarios where targets may be outside the seeker’s field of view,” he said.
Like other versions of the company’s Spike line of anti-tank missiles, Spike NLOS enables “one-shot, one-kill” precision strikes through radio frequency communication links that download images from the missile’s seeker directly to gunners, and vice versa.
“Gunners see exactly what the missile sees all the way to the final fraction of a second before impact,” Kaplan said.
He said Rafael recently completed an upgrade to its ground-launched, long-range Spike, called Spike LR, which extends striking distances from four to five kilometers. Rafael is under contract with two customers to integrate the Spike LR on helicopters, he said.
“Within a year, we’ll have a mature system of Spike LR to be fired on helicopters, in addition to infantry. It’s the same configuration and same weight as existing Spike LRs … and for many users, this extra one kilometer makes it a very attractive, low-cost option for attack helicopters operating at closer range,” Kaplan said.
Bezhalel “Butzi” Machlis, Elbit’s chief executive, said the company is consistently expanding its portfolio of precision strike and networked command-and-control systems to meet global demand for sensor-to-shooter capabilities.
Elbit’s precision strike air-, land- and sea-launched systems are operational in dozens of countries. The company maintains strong joint ventures in India, South Korea and Brazil, where Lizard laser-guided bombs and other precision targeting systems are operational on Brazilian AMX fighter jets and other platforms.
But aside from Israel, the company’s largest market is the United States, where government contracts and strategic partnerships with US industry are managed by Elbit USA, its Fort Worth, Texas-based subsidiary.
Together with Boeing, Elbit developed the seeker for the Laser joint direct attack munition (JDAM), which converts the GPS-guided weapon to full dual-mode capability. The two companies are in full-scale production to supply Laser JDAMs to the US Air Force.
Retired Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, chairman of the board at Israel Military Industries (IMI), the state-owned company slated for privatization this year, said its precision rockets and tank rounds are operational in 10 countries.
“The world is moving toward lighter, more maneuverable, precision forces, and IMI is vectoring our proven combat experience, our systems engineering expertise, and our portfolio of multidimensional systems to meet growing market demand,” he said.