WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems recently completed test flights in Israel to prepare for a shoot-off this fall meant to help the U.S. Army choose a long-range precision weapon for its AH-64E Apache helicopters and its future attack reconnaissance aircraft.

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.

The American-Israeli tie-up is the only team to go public with its participation and its offering. However, the Army has revealed it chose three systems to participate in the shoot-off at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, later this month.

The results will inform a final requirements document for a long-range precision munition and validate the maturity of potential solutions.

The Lockheed-Rafael offering is the latter’s latest version of its Spike Non-Line-of-Sight missile. Lockheed made the weapon compatible to fire from the Army’s Modular Effects Launcher, which is currently in development, according to Tom Bargnesi, a senior program manager with the company.

The Spike weapon received integration improvements to meet U.S. standards, he said, adding: “That is not in the international version.”

Lockheed is also working on data links it hopes will be compatible with U.S. systems, he noted.

Rafael unveiled its sixth-generation version of the Spike NLOS munition ahead of the Eurosatory defense show in Paris, France, in June. The new variant has an increased range, pushing beyond 40 kilometers (25 miles) to a range of 50 kilometers (31 miles).

The next-generation version “is more compatible with the Army’s requirements for its LRPM program” than the interim system the Army chose several years ago — an earlier version of the Spike NLOS.

The Army chose Rafael and Lockheed to provide Spike NLOS as the interim capability for its Apache helicopters in early 2020. The team signed a contract with the service in November 2021.

The first Apache equipped with the interim Spike NLOS for testing will begin flying in November. Then the helo will fire its first missile in January 2023, Bargnesi said earlier this year.

The company will outfit two test birds, he said, after which the Army will install Spike on the remaining Apaches — the latest V6 helicopter variant — for the first unit equipped by the end of 2023. Fielding will conclude at the end of fiscal 2024.

Lockheed and Rafael said the shoot-off for Spike will take place Oct. 17-28. The event will not take place in the air, Bargnesi noted, but rather from the ground based on the Army’s requirements.

During the tests in Israel, the team “replicated the exact shoot-off scenarios that the Army is asking [for],” he added.

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 degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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