Rafael Advanced Defence Systems is introducing a new, fully network-enabled capability to its family of Spike multipurpose missile systems.
The new Spike LR II features reduced weight, a significant range increment, enhanced lethality, advanced target recognition and tracking, and a new third-party target allocation (networked-enabled) enhancement with an embedded inertial measurement unit (IMU) assembly.
Designed to be fired from ground launchers, vehicles, ships and helicopters, Spike LR II is an evolution of the legacy fourth-generation Spike LR multipurpose missile (now designated Spike LR I), but retains full commonality with the legacy Spike family, and can therefore be red from any Spike launcher, with only a minor so ware update required to accommodate the missile.
At 12.7kg (28lb), the new missile is approximately 1kg (2.2lb) lighter than the Spike LR I – this was achieved primarily by switching from a cooled to an uncooled IR sensor, which removed the requirement for an internal gas cylinder and cryogenic pipes, and “engineering the missile to a lighter weight”, according to Rafael.
Spike LR II is intended to engage new, modern low-signature and time-sensitive targets, “as well as various types of advanced armour and protection systems”, according to Rafael – this is understood to include a capability against heavy/ light armour equipped with modern active protection systems.
Uniquely, the company developed two new warhead configurations for the missile – a tandem high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead, designed to engage main battle tanks or heavy armour and which, according to Rafael, enhances the armour penetration capability of the missile by more than 30 per cent over the legacy Spike LR I; and a “smart” multipurpose blast warhead, with selectable breech or impact fuze options, designed to engage structures, so - skinned vehicles, and personnel in open terrain. Essentially, the operator selects the mix of missiles according to the mission requirement.
The new Spike LR II has a stated range of 5.5km (3.4 miles) when fired from a ground launcher (an increase of approximately 35 per cent on the 4km range of the legacy Spike LR I) – achieved by “enhancements” to the current Spike LR I rocket motor, and from engaging the targets at a high angle of attack. The ground-launched Spike LR II uses a slightly longer (5.5km) fibre-optic datalink to that used in the Spike LR I.
In a helicopter-launched role the Spike LR II achieves a far longer range – out to 10km (6.2 miles) – replacing the fibre-optic datalink with a radio frequency (RF) datalink. e company has developed a lightweight miniature RF communications link assembly for the missile, and has embedded a lightweight two-way RF datalink antenna in its new ultra light launcher for helicopters. The missile can still be red using a fibre-optic data link, but in this configuration the image is lost a er 5.5km; the RF datalink configuration also obviates the possibility of the fibreoptic datalink being cut by the helicopter rotors.
Rafael has also designed a new electro-optic (EO) seeker package for the missile, which includes a new uncooled IR sensor, a new high-definition light emitting diode (LED) colour day sensor (earlier Spike EO packages work with a monochrome image), and a smart tracker with what Rafael describes as “artificial intelligence” (AI) features.
Designed to reduce the tracking burden on the gunner, once the target is de ned, the new smart tracker immediately locks on, and continues to independently track the target even if it disappears behind buildings or other common battle eld obscurations, without requiring the gunner to update the tracker manually, as with the fourth-generation datalink-equipped Spike LR.
A Rafael spokesperson said Spike LR II is still in the development and testing stage, with risk reduction on the new warheads and uncooled IR seeker currently ongoing.
The company is planning to finalise full-scale development of the new missile by the fourth quarter of 2018.