Air Defense: Supercharged Spyder


January 16, 2023: In 2023 Israel introduced another upgrade for its Spyder (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) mobile air defense system that enables the Derby LR missile to intercept ballistic missiles. Spyder entered service in 2005. Spyder was initially available as a truck mounted version where one or more trucks carried a launcher (with four missiles) and another truck carried the radar and fire control system. In 2016 the Israeli manufacturer of Spyder revealed an even more mobile version that uses tracked vehicles instead of wheeled ones. Each tracked vehicle carries four missiles plus the radar and fire control system.

Spyder launchers can carry either the Python 5 heat seeking missile (3.2 meters/ten feet long, 105 kg/231 pounds, with a range of 15 kilometers) or the Derby radar guided missile (3.6 meter/11.2 feet long, 121.4 kg/267 pounds, with a range of 35 kilometers). The Derby is actually a larger Python, with more fuel and a radar-controlled guidance system. Python has an 11 kg (23 pound) warhead while the one on Derby is 23 kg (51 pound). The Israeli Spyder radar system has a maximum range of 110 kilometers. The missiles can hit targets as high as 16,000 meters (51,000 feet) and as low as 20 meters (63 feet). Spyder can be used with other radar systems as well as a variety of truck models. Only the Derby is capable of intercepting missiles, and then only short-range ones.

Spyder is regularly upgraded as there are improvements in the Derby and Python missiles as well as associated radar and control systems. The new ABM (anti-ballistic missile) upgrade is typical of the numerous improvements introduced since 2005.

So far Spyder has been sold to ten (UAE, Ethiopia, Czech Republic, Azerbaijan, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Georgia, Peru and Singapore) export customers but not the Israeli military. Israel depends on Iron Dome and David’s Sling (an improved Patriot system) as well as the Arrow (for defense against long range ballistic missiles). Spyder is a budget system that can handle most aerial threats that Iron Dome and David’s sling deal with in Israel. Iron Dome has not been exported because it specializes in intercepting unguided rockets fired from Gaza or Lebanon.


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