JERUSALEM — Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has unveiled a new air-to-surface missile that the company is pitching as a lightweight munition for fixed-wing aircraft performing close-air support missions.
The Aerospike missile, which was unveiled at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida, this week, builds on Rafael’s Spike family of missiles, said Gal Papier, vice president of business development at the company’s U.S. division.
Spike missiles are used by 39 countries and come in different variants, from the non-line-of-sight precision-guided weapon, which has a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) range, to the shoulder-fired short-range missile, which has a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) range. The U.S. Army recently evaluated the latter, and the former has already been fielded on its helicopters.
The Aerospike is based on the Spike LR II, which has a ground-launched range of 5.5 kilometers and an air-launched range of 10 kilometers. Papier said the missile weighs 14 kilograms (30.9 pounds), and that it features a seeker and warhead similar to the Spike variety, although the weapon is more suited for air-to-ground launches.
A company statement said the Aerospike can operate in a “contested environment and without GPS dependency.” It includes scene-matching technology and “detection and tracking capabilities.”
“A real-time data link allows for seamless man-in-the-loop operation and advanced lethality with a combination of HEAT (antitank) and blast fragmentation warheads,” the statement read.
Papier noted the company is targeting the close-air support market and has seen interest from the armed C-130 aircraft community. Papier said the missile is already in use by customers, but would not identify any. The practice of not naming customers is common for Israeli defense sales.
Rafael plans to market the Aerospike to existing Spike users, who are meeting in Latvia this year, Papier said. Rafael has offered Spike missiles in Europe as part of its Eurospike program in recent years, with Eastern Europe becoming an emerging market for sales.
Seth Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has been covering conflict in the Middle East since 2010. 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.