JERUSALEM — The Spyder air defense system can now counter tactical ballistic missiles thanks to an upgrade by its Israeli manufacturer, driven by “urgent operational requests from several existing customers throughout the world.”
The new feature by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems comes amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has featured a barrage of aerial attacks, as well as missile tests by North Korea and Iran.
“The new capability involves the Derby LR missile interceptor, which underwent both hardware and software upgrades, which were adapted according to customer requests and from lessons learned from operational events,” a company official said.
In a separate statement, Rafael noted the additional capability “involved researching and analyzing the lessons learned from recent and ongoing armed conflicts involving extensive use of tactical ballistic missiles.”
The Spyder was seen in the last year in the United Arab Emirates, a country that signed a peace deal in 2020 with Israel and which has faced drone and missile threats. Georgia, Vietnam, Singapore, the Czech Republic and the Philippines are among those who have acquired the system, according to media reports and open-source information. However, Israeli companies often do not divulge the name of their customers.
Rafael showcased Spyder in Bahrain in November 2021, and at the NATO Days event in September 2022 in the Czech Republic. The company also announced its Spyder “all-in-one” system in Singapore in early 2022, which incorporates radar, electro-optical/infrared, and launcher technology onto a single platform.
Rafael said last year the system is designed to confront aircraft, bombs, drones and precision-guided munitions, and that it was “the only Israeli-made air defense system acquired by a NATO member state.”
Rafael is one of Israel’s largest defense companies and is behind the successful Iron Dome system, which is a short-range air defense system. The company also makes the David’s Sling air defense system. Together with Israel’s long-range Arrow, the three air defense systems are part of the country’s multilayered approach to countering aerial threats.
The company said the Spyder “provides effective protection of valuable assets and first-class defense for forces located in the combat area.”
“Its autonomous capabilities can detect threats while on the move and enables a [360-degree] launch within seconds of the target being declared hostile, in all-weather, multi-launch, and net-centric capabilities,” Rafael said in a statement.
It is an open-architecture platform that can be integrated with other systems, and it can use Rafael’s Python-5 and Derby missiles. Depending on the interceptor chosen, the system can confront targets out to 80 kilometers (50 miles).
Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.