2009/04/23

Spike missile - the lighter one

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I saw many April, 20th news about a missile called "Spike" being tested - and obviously also being shown off.

That's pretty much the first news I heard/read about this missile in years. It's been quite a while ago (2003?) that this missile was first made public.

The intent was to develop a missile of four pounds weight, 4,000 $ cost, more than a mile range and to arm it with an EFP warhead.
The key for its low price was the use of a civilian daylight video camera and electronics for lock-on-before-launch mode.

I saw two or three news about it till it vanished from public. For years, the only remarkable thing about the project was the confusion it caused - the Israelis had introduced an anti-tank missile with the same name.

Now it's back. The weight is apparently 5.3 pounds, price is 5,000 $, range 1.5 or 2 miles and the warhead seems to be a delayed impact fuzed HE warhead.
The dimensions are 25 inches length and 2.25 inches body diameter (57 mm).
The seeker has been made more versatile - it's supposed to work as semi-active laser homing seeker at night now (maybe with lock-on-after-launch in that mode).
I assume that a single reference to fiber-optic guidance with man-in-the-loop was a misunderstanding with the Israeli Spike.
The rocket's flame is not quite as difficult to see as hoped for year ago.


It's a fascinating project and a fascinating tiny missile in today's world of super-expensive and heavy arms. It was developed by a Marine or Navy lab as I understand, maybe the lack of commercial need to inflate the project for good profit has kept the price tag low.


The news about this missile this month were all about the potential use as armament for small drones. I've yet to see a suggestion that the missile might be more versatile.
Think about it; that's a missile with a weight and size close to the old M72 rocket launcher and it has 1.5 miles range with a warhead that's stronger than a hand grenade!

Aerial drones may be fashionable, but they're not fashionable enough to keep my mind fixated on them when I read "Spike". I don't think "drone", but "sniper".

It's maybe time to apologize to Carlton Meyer who was in favour of infantry with long-range guided missiles as early as 2002. His example was the laser-guided Hydra missile, which seemed to me to be way too heavy for infantry and looked to me like a whacky idea.
It turned out to be a feasible concept with a new missile and smaller warhead.


The new missile may add capabilities where size and weight restrictions are especially severe and it might be a doom spell for heavy sniper rifles over the long term.
It might also be adapted (with different fuze and warhead) for the interception of small battlefield drones at low altitude - or to saturate active defence suites of tanks. The low price, low weight and small size open up several niches.

It looks like a (weak) silver bullet, but the most pressing problem against competent and well-equipped opposition isn't so much the killing - it's the detection and identification. It's been possible to take out identified opposition at long ranges before - the key problem is that the battlefield seems to be empty as everyone who's really competent is either camouflaged, behind concealment, behind cover or impossible to identify in an ocean of contacts (civilians or decoys).


Sven Ortmann
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1 comment:

  1. Well, the Israeli Spike is pretty small, too.

    The French Foreign Legion used to deploy their Milan missiles for sniping targets between 800m and 2km, before they bought their .50 cal rifles.

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