Country of origin
Range of fire
Weight in launch tube
HEAT, HE-FRAG, Thermobaric
Helicopter and ground vehicles
A product of Israel
Aerospace Industries (IAI) in Israel, the Nimrod is
an Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) system. It is superfluous in
size, range, and firepower for a weapon of this type. It is named
after a renowned figure in the Old Testament, who was a formidable
The Nimrod is one of the most mysterious ATGMs. No details of
its origins, development, or combat history have ever been
published. While this missile was first publicly revealed in 1989
during the Paris Air Show, it also eventually came to light that the
Nimrod had already been in service with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since the early
1980s. The Nimrod is sometimes confused with the
Spike NLOS (known in IDF service as Tamuz). They have comparable missions and timelines, but
are different weapons with different subcomponents and guidance.
The Nimrod looks more like a stereotypical anti-ship missile
than an ATGM (it especially resembles the ubiquitous
it is clearly smaller than a typical example. The fuselage is
cylindrical and very long, with a rounded nose and a boat tail. The
seeker head on the nose of the missile is made of a transparent
glass-like material (possibly actual glass), and is conformal with
the fuselage. The main fins are large, shallow, and trapezoidal, set
very far aft in a 90-degree crucifix pattern, with a set of smaller
right trapezoid-shaped steering fins in trail. A long protruding
conformal strip spans most of the missile's length on the topside
(which likely contains wiring), and a single thrust nozzle is
located on the tail of the missile.
The missile is composed of 5 main sections. From front to
rear, these are composed of the seeker, guidance and control,
warhead, rocket motor, and servo. No details of the Nimrod's
composition have ever been published, but its appearance suggests
that it is mostly metallic in construction.
Guidance is via semi-active laser, with the seeker head of
the missile designed to steer the Nimrod into a laser spot. It is
extremely unlikely that the launch platform would be able to lase
the target at the Nimrod's extraordinary range, so the target is
probably lased by other forces in the vicinity of the target. The
seeker head also has all-aspect capability, with 30° of traversal, a
search area of 5 km, and a search depth of 5 km.
Midcourse guidance is via Inertial Navigation System (INS), until the missile is close
enough to the target to detect the laser spot during the last 15-30
seconds of flight, and later variants further augment the INS with
GPS. It is unclear whether the GPS is accurate enough to actually
guide the missile directly onto a target by itself, or is only used
to steer it into the correct area.
Propulsion is provided by a single solid-fuel rocket motor.
It is unknown if this is a multi-stage and/or long-burning motor,
but these are probable given the missile's reported range. In
addition to drag stabilization from its fins, the Nimrod is also
stabilized by angular momentum, via a slow and steady spin in
The Nimrod is transonic in flight, with a velocity of
approximately Mach 0.8, and capable of approaching the target on a
flat or lofted trajectory (a low arc in flight, which is likely
being the main reason it has such a long range). It is rated to be
effective against targets as far away as 26 km, but no closer than
300 m, as the warhead will not arm quickly enough. In the terminal
phase of flight, the missile enters as 45° dive onto the target.
The warhead of the Nimrod is a 14 kg (15 kg according to some
sources) shaped charge munition, reportedly capable of penetrating
over 800 mm of steel armor. It is unknown if this is a tandem-charge warhead
(which would negate explosive reactive armor on the target) in any of the Nimrod
variants. In addition to being able to knock-out virtually any
armored vehicle in service, the Nimrod's warhead is also reportedly
very effective against pillboxes, light structures, watercraft, and
even minor warships.
A wider range of warheads became available for the Nimrod in
more recent years, including HE-FRAG and thermobaric munitions,
though little else has been published on their attributes. These
basically allow the Nimrod to be employed against virtually any
The Nimrod is carried inside and launched from a long,
ribbed, rectangular box-like launcher. Unlike many launch
containers, this one is not a conformal tube, and the fins do not
fold. These launchers may be attached to one another, forming a
cluster of up to 4 launchers. Loaded into its launcher, the total
weight of the Nimrod is 150 kg. It should be noted that this is three
times the weight of a typical contemporary helicopter-launched ATGM.
The only publicly acknowledged operators of the Nimrod are
Columbia and Israel, and it remains in service with both of these
nations as of late 2019.
The primary platform in IDF service is the
heavy-lift helicopter. While an unusual choice for the launch
platform of a ATGM, the Nimrod is an unusually large and heavy
missile for its class, and it would likely be the missile of choice
for many operations that the IDF is known to employ the CH-53E in. A
single CH-53E can carry up to 8 Nimrods.
The Nimrod is also employed in a ground-launched role, in the
form of a light 4x4 flatbed truck carrying 2-4 launch tubes. The
vehicle used is an AIL M462 Abir, which is also produced in Israel.
Another offered launch platform for the Nimrod was a 16-cell
launcher, which was demonstrated atop an
light tank chassis, but it is
unknown if this vehicle was ever adopted by any military.
The unit cost of the Nimrod has not been published, but it is
likely a very expensive ATGM, probably in the $100 000 range. As
this missile is no longer featured on IAI's website. Its production
and development have probably been discontinued.
Nimrod: Original production model, as described above.
Nimrod 2: This variant augmented the Nimrod's inertial
navigation system with a GPS
system, and its range was increased to 36 km. It is also compatible
with a range of different warhead types.
Nimrod 3: First unveiled in 2008, the Nimrod 3 has a range
increased to a whopping 50 km, and a new warhead with a 50 kg payload.
The Nimrod SR is likely so-named to associate it with the
Nimrod missile, but it is actually an export variant of the LAHAT
Spike NLOS: Another Israeli missile, and a contemporary of the
Nimrod, the Spike NLOS (Non-Line-Of-Sight) employs camera guidance
via a fiber-optic wire. It has virtually the same range as the
Nimrod, but is a lighter 70 kg munition with folding fins.
Developed for the Joint Common Munition program, the Lockheed-Martin
AGM-169 JCM was developed to replace the
AGM-114 Hellfire. Though broadly similar in size, weight, and
even appearance to its predecessor, the JCM was planned to have
almost six times the range (28 km). Though expected to enter service
by 2016, the JCM's development was halted in 2004, and ultimately
terminated in 2007. Curiously, the JCM's successor (the AGM-179 JAGM)
is actually a re-worked JCM, and is now only required to have a
range of 8 km.
PAASM: Another recent US missile, Raytheon's PAASM (Precision
Attack Air-to-Surface Missile) employs laser or active radar
guidance, and is projected to achieve a range of over 20 km. It is
broadly similar in size and appearance to the AGM-114 Hellfire,
which is also a Raytheon product.
Brimstone II: A further development of the MDBA
the European Brimstone II is required to demonstrate a whopping
40-60 km range (depending on launch platform). There is also a naval
variant for use on ships and watercraft, the Sea Spear.
HELINA SANT: Developed by DRDO in India, the HELINA SANT
(Helicopter-launched Nag, Standoff ANti-Tank) is an active
radar-guided ATGM, which is expected to have a range of over 20 km.
It remains in development, as of late 2019. This missile also
vaguely resembles the Nimrod.
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