Armor: ATGM With ADS Countermeasures

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November 12, 2017: In October 2017 the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) placed the first order (for “over 1,000”) of the new Spike LR II ATGM (Anti-tank guided missile). First revealed earlier in 2017 the Spike LR II uses a lighter missile with a longer range of 5,500 meters (instead of 4,000 meters) when fired from the existing Spike LR launcher (and 10,000 meters when fired from a helicopter or UAV). The original Spike LR missiles cost about $125,000 each while the launcher (unchanged for LR II) cost $265,000 each. The LR II missile is more expensive but it is unclear by how much. The original Spike LR entered service in 2004.

Like the original Spike LR, the LR II version uses a missile in a sealed storage/launch canister. The original Spike LR weighed 13 kg (28.6 pounds) while the LR II weighs 12.7 kg (27.9 pounds). The missile canister is mounted on a 13 kg fire control system (10 kg without the tripod) for aiming and firing. The missile in its canister has a shelf life of twenty years. The Spike uses a fiber-optic cable so that the operator can literally drive the missile to the target, although the missile can also be used in "fire and forget" mode.

The Spike LR II has new warhead and guidance options. One of the unique new capabilities, the first in an ATGM, is countermeasures for ADS (Active Defense Systems) that are becoming more common in large part because they provide protection against ATGMs. Spike LR II has one new warhead with a dual shaped charge (HEAT) system with 30 percent greater penetration than the one it replaces. The other new warhead is a multipurpose (anti-armor or personnel) that gives the user the option to choose before firing. The new warhead can also be fired remotely at specific locations. Spike can be also fired from vehicles, aircraft or ships and the over 27,000 Spike missiles (in five versions) since 1981 and it has been exported to 27 nations and often competes with the American Javelin and Russian Kornet for sales.

The Kornet E is a Russian laser guided missile with a range of 5,000 meters. The launcher has a thermal sight for use at night or in fog. The missile's warhead can penetrate enough modern tank armor to render the side armor of the Israeli Merkava or U.S. M1 tanks vulnerable. The missile weighs 8.2 kg (18 pounds) and the launcher 19 kg (42 pounds). The system was introduced in 1994 and has proved itself in combat (mostly in the Middle East).

The American Javelin was introduced in 2002. The missile weighs 22.3 kg (49 pounds, with disposable launch tube and battery/seeker coolant unit) and is fired from a 6.4 kg (14 pound) CLU (command launch unit). The CLU contains a 4x day sight and a 9x heat sensing night sight. The missile has a tandem (two warheads, to blast through reactive armor) that can hit a target straight on or from the top. This latter capability enables the Javelin to use its 8.2 kg (18 pound) warhead to destroy any existing tank (including the U.S. M1). Maximum range is 2,500 meters. The seeker on the missile is "fire and forget." That is, once the operator gets the target in the CLU crosshairs and fires the missile, the computer and seeker in the missile warhead memorizes the target and homes in on it. The infantry loves this because it allows them to take cover once the missile is fired and shows the enemy where they are.

Israel has opted to offer a family of Spike missiles that share many common items but vary greatly in terms or weight, range and price. At the low end, there is the 8 kg Spike SR, with a range of 1,500 meters, followed by the 13.7 kg Spike MR with a range of 2,500 meters, then the 5,500 meter 12.7 kg Spike LR II and the 8,000 meter 34 kg Spike-ER.

 


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