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Nimrod

Anti-tank guided missile

Nimrod missile

The Nimrod is one of the longest-range anti-tank missiles ever fielded, and an exceptional weapon for its class

 
 
Country of origin Israel
Entered service Early 1980s
Armor penetration 800 mm
Range of fire 26 km
Missile length 2.6 m
Missile diameter 0.17 m
Fin span 0.4 m
Missile weight 98 kg
Weight in launch tube 150 kg
Warhead weight 14 kg
Warhead type HEAT, HE-FRAG, Thermobaric
Guidance Semi-active laser
Launch platforms 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 hunter.

   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 Exocet), though 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 flight.

   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 battlefield target.

   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 CH-53E Super Stallion 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 AMX-13 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.

 

Variants

 

   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 missile.

 

Similar weapons

 

   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.

   AGM-169 JCM: 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 Brimstone, 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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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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Nimrod missile

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