PARIS — Rafael Advanced Defense Systems is submitting the latest variant of its Spike missile to the U.S. Army’s upcoming competition for a long-range precision munition that would arm existing and future attack helicopters, according to an executive with the Israeli company.
The Army is hosting three vendors at a shoot-off this fall to choose a long-range precision munition for AH-64E Apache helicopters and for the future attack reconnaissance aircraft, once it’s fielded.
The Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space told Defense News this year that it selected three qualified systems from responses to a 2021 request for information, but the service would not identify the vendors.
Long-range munitions for the service’s future aircraft will be critical to engage an enemy’s defensive positions from a comfortable standoff — or a range beyond the enemy’s detection.
Rafael unveiled a sixth-generation version of the Spike non-line-of-sight munition ahead of Eurosatory, a defense exhibition in Paris this week, where the firm prominently featured the weapon. The new variant has an increased range, pushing beyond 40 kilometers (25 miles) to a range of 50 kilometers (31 miles).
The Spike NLOS was selected as an interim long-range precision munition for the Army’s Apaches, but the service still wants to extend the range of the munition beyond its current capability so it can operate in degraded environments.
The Spike is capable of launching from land, air and naval platforms, but the new variant presents capabilities beyond increased range to include a salvo feature — launching four at a time — and the ability to hand over control.
“You can shoot from one platform and you can take over with another platform simultaneously,” Ran Gozali, the head of Rafael’s land and naval systems division, told Defense News in an interview at Eurosatory.
The company also unveiled its Spike NLOS Mission Task Force capability at the show, which uses a network of unmanned aircraft systems for targeting.
Rafael is teaming with Lockheed Martin so the missile would be manufactured in the U.S. if the Army picks it. “We understand the importance of the industrial partnership and building an all-American missile in terms of becoming a program of record and not only an interim solution,” Gozali said.
The Army has also evaluated a shoulder-launched, short-range version of Spike in 2021 at the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment for possible use by infantry units.
Rafael is a partner with Oshkosh Defense to develop a design for the optionally manned fighting vehicle, meant to replace the Army’s Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. Although it’s partnered with those American companies, Rafael said it is not offering Spike exclusively as a weapon system for the platform; any company competing can integrate the munition.
There are currently 40 countries that buy variants of the Spike weapon, including 19 NATO nations. The company has established 11 production lines of Spike outside of Israel, Gozali said. “We understand that we need to support the supply chain in each and every domain or country.”
For example, Rafael established EuroSpike with its German partners, Gozali noted.
“We are still increasing the capacity on each and every production line because we see the projections for the upcoming years growing quite significantly,” he said.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.