Armor: Spike LR 2

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June 22, 2018: Australia became the second export customer for the Israeli Spike LR 2 ATGM. Other customers are Latvia and the Israeli military. The LR 2 version of Spike was revealed in May 2017 and deliveries begin by the end of 2018. The new Spike LR 2 uses a lighter 12.7 kg (28 pound) missile with a longer range of 5,500 meters (instead of 4,000 meters) when fired from the existing Spike MR/LR launcher. The range is 10,000 meters when fired from a helicopter or UAV. Like the original Spike LR, the new version uses a missile in a sealed storage/launch canister. The original Spike LR missile weighed 13 kg (28.6 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. Spike LR missiles cost about $100,000 each and the MR/LR launcher (control unit) costs about $400,000. The launcher has a 10x day sight and a thermal sight for use at night or when there is fog, smoke or sandstorms. That’s the main reason it’s so expensive. Then again the control unit is often used alone at night because of its excellent thermal sight (that detects differences in temperature.)

The Spike LR 2 has new warhead and guidance options. One new warhead has a dual shaped charge (HEAT) system with 30 percent greater penetration than the one it replaces. The HEAT warhead is designed to function effectively when used against structures or bunkers. 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. Over 29,000 Spike missiles (in five versions) have been produced since 1981 and it has been exported to 29 nations and often competes with the American Javelin and Russian Kornet for sales. About 20 percent of those Spike missiles have been used, either in training or combat.

The Spike MR entered service in the late 1990s after over a decade of development t0 perfect its ability to fire a wire (fiber optic cable) guided or wireless “fire and forget” ATGM. The LR version followed in 2005 and is basically a longer range MR with some additional features like built-in self-check.

When Spike MR showed up the only real competition it had was Kornet E. This is a Russian laser guided missile with a range of 5,000 meters. The Kornet 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 effective against modern Western tanks (M1, Merkava and Leopard 2) to the extent that more Western tanks are being equipped with APS (Active Protection Systems) that can defeat missiles like Kornet and Spike.

The Americans were not far behind Israel and the Russians. The 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 thermal 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.

 


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