Armor: Spike, Javelin and the Politics of Procurement

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March 4, 2006: The Czech Republic and Spain are the latest two countries to buy the Israeli Spike ATGM (anti-tank guided missile.) The Spike is often in competition with the new American Javelin ATGM. While Javelin is combat tested (in Iraq), Spike has seen far less action. But Javelin costs $75,000 per missile, the Spike always costs less. The Spike is actually a family of anti-tank missiles using a lot of common technology. At the low end, there is the Spike SR, with a range of 800 meters, followed by the Spike MR (also called the Gill) with a range of 2,500 meters, then the 4,000 meter Spike LR and the 8,000 meter Spike-ER. The Spike LR missile, along with the sealed storage/launch canister, weighs 28.6 pounds. The canister is mounted on a 28.6 pound fire control system (22 pounds 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. Israel is apparently flexible on what they charge for the Spike LR, saying only that it's cheaper than the U.S. Javelin. In some situations, the U.S. will cut the price of the Javelin, and the Spike will always be offered for a lower price. The Javelin continues to get most of the sales, partly because of the combat experience angle, and partly because if the missiles are being bought with American financial aid, it would be political suicide (that is, no more U.S. financial aid) to buy Spike.

 

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