Armor: Slovaks Spike Soviets


April 13, 2020: Slovakia, one of the more recent (2004) members of NATO, is still replacing its Cold War era Russian weapons with modern ones. The latest upgrade involves older Russian 9K111 and 9K113 ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) being replaced with the Israeli Spike LR2. Slovakia is getting the Spike missiles and control units via the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, which handles all the purchasing contract details for many NATO nations buying weapons from non-NATO members.

Spike is actually a family of ATGMs with several different models of varying range and size that all use basic Spike technology. So far Israel has exported Spike to 34 nations and Slovakia is the sixth to receive the new LR2 model, which was introduced in 2017. Spike LR2 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 LR launcher. 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 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 LR2 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 other new warhead is multipurpose (anti-armor or personnel) and gives the user the option to choose either mode before firing. The new warhead can also be fired remotely at specific locations. Spike can be also fired from vehicles, aircraft or ships. Over 27,000 Spike missiles (in five versions) have been manufactured and exported to 27 nations since 1981 and it often competes with the American Javelin and Russian Kornet for sales.

Slovakia has long used the older Russian ATGMs in portable and vehicle-mounted versions and Spike LR2 is able to handle that. Slovakia already ordered (in 2015) 30 Rosomak Wheeled Armored Vehicles from Poland. These vehicles used the Tura 30 unmanned turret that carries 30mm autocannon as well as ATGMs. One of the ATGMs Turra can handle is Spike LR and Slovakia chose that option with the intent of buying Spike LR.

The Spike LR2 is a considerable upgrade from the older Russian 9K111 and 9K113 ATGMs. The 9K111 was designed in the 1960s, entered service in 1970 and has a range of 2,500 meters and is wire-guided (like the U.S. TOW). The 9K113 was a more modern (1974) wire-guided missiles with a range of 4,000 meters. Like TOW, Russian wire-guided missiles have been upgraded over the years and are still in service. They are cheaper than Spike LR2 but are not as effective in combat. ---Przemyslaw Juraszek




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