Country of origin
~ 700 mm
Range of fire
Launch tube length
350 mm or ~ 250 mm (see text)
HEAT, HE-FRAG, HEDP
IR camera, fiber-optic cable and radio command
A product of Rafael in Israel, the Spike NLOS is a long-range
Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) system employed by a wide range of
launch platforms, including helicopters, tank destroyers, light
vehicles, and even watercraft. NLOS is shorthand for
"Non-Line-Of-Sight", a reference to the Spike NLOS' "over the
horizon" range and indirect attack capabilities. It is named the
Tamuz in Israel Defense Forces (IDF) service, the Exactor in British
service, and the Typhoon in Azerbaijani service.
FlightGlobal reported that Rafael revealed the existence of a new,
longer-range version of the Spike series of missiles. While the
other models had ranges of up to 8 km, the new missile --- dubbed
the Spike NLOS --- reportedly had a range of 25 km. This was no
small surprise to the global military community, given that the same
report also noted that the US Army had been struggling to develop
missiles with comparable ranges for many years (the JCM and JAGM
programs were mentioned).
However, the truth behind the origins of the Spike NLOS
weren't publicly disclosed until 2011, and it proved even more
Development of the Spike NLOS had actually begun in the
mid-1970s, and was strongly influenced by the IDF's experience with
ATGMs during the Yom Kippur War. It can be surmised that they took
this experience seriously, as much of it was gained on the receiving
end; IDF tank losses were notoriously heavy during this war
(especially from Arab ATGMs), and Israeli tankers ended up suffering
over 75% of all personnel casualties in the IDF. The IDF's own
anti-tank combat experiences often occurred at relatively close
range, and highlighted a need for a weapon with a longer reach.
It is also probable that the Spike NLOS was at least
partially derived from --- or at least influenced by --- the
American FOG-M missile (another extremely long-range ATGM, guided by
camera via fiber-optic wire), for a number of reasons. First, these
missiles very strongly resemble one another in both form and
function, all the way down to their launch tubes and extremely long
spring-out crucifix fins. Second, their development timelines
overlap very closely, and the FOG-M was mature enough by 1980 that
it could likely have entered service in 1981 as well. Third, the US
and Israel had extremely strong political and military ties in the
1970s, which cannot be overstated; arms from many nations had been
exported to Israel since its founding, but the Eastern Bloc threw in
their lot with the Arabs instead in the late 1950s, while British
and French arms exports essentially turned against Israel; for
example, the IDF were quite livid when the
Chieftain tank and Mirage
V fighter --- both designed, developed, and produced exclusively for
Israel, with extensive IDF input into their designs during their
development --- were instead given to Arab nations. It's no accident
that the US was the almost exclusive provider of arms to Israel
since 1967, nor that relationship became close enough that US
military equipment and were airlifted directly into Israel during
the fighting in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
truth behind the Spike NLOS' origins, there is no denying that the
IDF was astonishingly effective in keeping its existence secret
(even though it was used in combat for almost three decades!).
Another secrecy coup was the identity of the ATGM carrier originally
developed especially to use the Spike NLOS. Nicknamed the
in IDF service, this vehicle externally appeared to be an ordinary
Magach 5 (IDF version of the M48A5 Patton), but it had a dummy gun,
and concealed "pop-up" launchers were built directly into the turret
roof. This ruse was so effective that the IDF did not disclose the
identity or nature of this vehicle until 2014, years after even the
Spike NLOS itself was declassified.
There are a total of 5 versions of the Spike NLOS missile
from throughout its development history, with the most current model
being the Mk.5, though no details on the differences between all of
these missiles have been published. There are substantial external
differences between the Mk.1 and Mk.5 models, however.
different versions of the Spike NLOS have been seen, with two
completely different fin configurations. The older Mk.1 version has
shallow delta-shape fins in a 90-degree crucifix pattern, with long
square-shaped trailing edges, set far aft. The Mk.5 examples
currently offered by Rafael have two parallel sets of narrow
rectangular fins in a 90-degree crucifix pattern, the forward fins
being very long and located in the middle of the missile, the aft
fins being short (almost square) and located near the tail. The fins
are also wrapped around the fuselage until launch, with the aft fins
springing into shape, and the forward fins swinging forward into the
The fuselage of the missile appears to be unchanged between
the two generations of the Spike NLOS, with a long, narrow,
cylindrical shape, a subtle aft boat tail, and a dome-shaped nose.
The nose is composed of a transparent glass-like material, through
which the infrared optics can be seen. While the Spike NLOS missile
resembles the other missiles in the family, the fuselage is wider
and shorter in proportion its length, giving this missile a portlier
appearance. Information on the composition of the Spike NLOS has not
The Spike NLOS is launched from a rectangular metallic box
launcher. The front cover of the launcher is hinged on the
underside, and this drops-open when the missile is about to be
launched. A single launch unit usually has a cluster of several of
NLOS is camera-guided, and linked to the launch platform via a
trailing fiber-optic cable. The cable only unspools out to a range
of 8 km, at which point it unplugs; if the missile is flown out to a
further range, it is controlled from then onward by radio command.
While this makes the Spike NLOS susceptible to jamming or
interference at longer ranges, this compromise was necessitated by
the problems of otherwise attempting to use a 25 km long cable. All
other smaller Spike variants use similar camera guidance, except the
The operator essentially
"flies" the missile into the target, controlling it using a
joystick, and receiving a first-person video feed onto a video
screen from the nose of the missile. The camera has a passive
infrared imaging capability, which strongly highlights the heat
signature of vehicles, infantry, helicopters, and so on from the
background, enabling the missile to engage almost any enemy in
virtually any weather or visibility conditions.
Propulsion is provided by a solid fuel rocket motor, though
little other information on the propulsion system of the Spike NLOS
has been published. Given its extraordinary range, it is likely a
two-stage rocket motor, with the missile's augmented by flying along
a high arc.
The primary warhead of the Spike NLOS is a shaped charge HEAT
warhead, reportedly able to penetrate at least 700 mm of steel
armor. This is sufficient for the Spike NLOS to penetrate the
armor of almost any armored vehicle in service. It is unclear if
this warhead is equipped with a precursor charge to defeat explosive
reactive armor, but
it is probable that more recent Spike NLOS models have this feature.
Alternate warheads are also offered by Rafael, including the
"Penetration-Blast-Fragmentation" (PBF). It is a type of High Explosive Dual-Purpose
(HEDP) warhead, derived from the design of the warhead
used in the
MATADOR rocket launcher), and an HE-FRAG warhead for
maximum effect against soft targets.
The IDF's primary launch platform for the Spike NLOS was
originally the aforementioned Pereh, but this vehicle was withdrawn
from service in 2017. Its primary launch platform is now the Hafiz,
an M113A3 Gavin chassis topped with a 6-cell launcher, though a
variety of other launch platforms exist. British Spike NLOS missiles
were initially launched from the Hafiz as well, though these were
later withdrawn from service in favor of towed SPARC launch
trailers. ROKN missiles are launched from
Wildcat helicopters, which the ROKMC launches the Spike NLOS from
Plasan Sand Cat all-terrain vehicles. The Azerbaijani Navy uniquely employs the
Spike NLOS as a naval missile on several warships, and the Army uses
them on Sand Cats. The Columbian Army presently uses the Spike NLOS
on Sikorsky AH-60L Arpía IV helicopters. Numerous other vehicles,
helicopters, and watercraft have also been demonstrated or proposed
as Spike NLOS launch platforms.
The Spike NLOS has been used in combat in every Israeli
conflict since the 1982 Lebanon War, though due to the veil of
secrecy that surrounds its service with the IDF, no details are
forthcoming. The name of this missile was invoked in numerous
publications regarding the use of IDF missiles in areas like the
Gaza Strip, though these have admitted that whether a specific Spike
variant or some other missile was used could not be confirmed.
Though more recently, IDF Spike NLOS missiles achieved some
notoriety by successfully engaging Syrian
Pantsir S1 anti-aircraft vehicles at extreme range.
The most curious combat use of the Spike NLOS to date was by
British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Identifying a critical
capability gap in their order of battle, the British armed forces
quickly and discreetly acquired the Hafiz ATGM carrier and 600 Spike
NLOS missiles, which were promptly named the Exactor in British
service. The Hafiz vehicles and the first 200 missiles were taken
directly out of the IDF inventory, while the remaining missiles were
produced to order in two different modified forms; these three
batches were designated as the Exactor-1 (ex-IDF NLOS Mk.2
missiles), Exactor-2 (NLOS Mk.5).
Rafael continues to manufacture and actively market the Spike
NLOS. It is presently operated by Azerbaijan, Columbia, Israel,
South Korea, and the United Kingdom, and is on order for the
According to the Teal Group, the unit cost of a single Spike
NLOS in 2019 was approximately $100 000.
Mk.1 is initial configuration. It has shallow delta-shape fins in a
90-degree crucifix pattern, with long square-shaped trailing edges,
set far aft.
Mk.2 is an improved version, resembling the Mk.1. British designation of this missile is
Exactor-1 and it was based on M113 armored personnel carrier chassis.
Mk.3 is another version that presumably has the same general
appearance with short delta-shaped fins of the Mk.1 model.
Mk.4. Is another variant with similar appearance. Most likely that
Mk.1, Mk.2, Mk.3 and Mk.4 missiles are interchangeable.
Mk.5 is the latest version, currently offered by Rafael. It has two
parallel sets of narrow rectangular fins in a 90-degree crucifix
pattern, the forward fins being very long and located in the middle
of the missile, the aft fins being short (almost square) and located
near the tail. The fins are wrapped around the fuselage until
launch, with the aft fins springing into shape, and the forward fins
swinging forward into the aforementioned pattern. British designation of this missile is
Exactor-2 and it was based on a towed trailer.
Another Israeli ATGM, and a contemporary of the Spike NLOS, the
Nimrod is similar in size, range, and performance, but it
laser-guided; as such, the Nimrod and Spike NLOS are frequently
confused for one another. It can be surmised that the IDF developed
two heavyweight ATGMs with ranges of 25 km or more for different
FOG-M: This US missile was developed at around the same time
as the Spike NLOS, and was also camera-guided via a fiber-optic
wire. It also *resembles* the Spike NLOS, though it was a
significantly shorter-range weapon. The FOG-M (Fiber-Optic Guided
Missile) was not adopted by the US military or any other armed
forces, despite the program being revived in the late 1980s.
MGM-157 EFOGM: A longer-range version of the FOG-M, the EFOGM
(Enhanced Fiber-Optic Guided Missile) was a third generation version
of this missile, with an infrared imaging camera. Development was
basically complete by the mid-1990s, but the program was terminated
to free-up funding for the
RAH-66 Comanche stealthy reconnaissance and attack helicopter.
This US missile was extremely similar in concept to the Spike NLOS
as part of the Future Combat Systems program, but was controlled
wirelessly. Initiated in 1997, this program was ultimately
unsuccessful, and the XM501 NLOS-LS missile performed poorly in
testing. It managed to service the cancellation of the FCS program
in 2009, but further testing by the US Navy (who considered using it
in their Littoral Combat Ships) yielded further disappointment, and
the NLOS-LS was finally terminated in 2011.
FOG-MPM: The FOG-MPM (Fiber-Optic Guided Multi-Purpose
Missile) is a Brazilian long-range tactical missile similar in
concept and employment to the Spike NLOS. It has been in development
since the 1980s, but its current status is unclear.
Polyphem: This multi-national missile project produced a
weapon extremely similar in concept to the Spike NLOS in form and
function, but was intended to have an even longer range of 60 km.
The effort was ultimately unsuccessful, and the Polyphem program was
abandoned in 2003.
CM-501G: First publicly revealed in 2012, this Chinese
missile has been in service since the early 2000s. It is similar in
concept to the Spike NLOS, but is wireless, employs several
different guidance methods. It is also significantly larger, with a
much heavier warhead and a 60 km range.
HJ-10 is a
China's clone of the Spike NLOS. It uses the same technology.
However the HJ-10 is much heavier. The missile weights 150 kg and
carries a 43 kg warhead. Though its range was reduced to 10 km.
ALAS: This Serbian missile is comparable in form and function
to the Spike NLOS, including the use of camera guidance and control
via a fiber-optic cable. It has been in service with the armed
forces of the United Arab Emirates since the mid-2000s, but has not
yet been adopted by Serbia.
Type 96 MPM: Japan's Type 96 Multi-Purpose Missile System is
another missile that conforms closely to both the concept and
performance of the Spike NLOS. It became operational with the Japan
Self-Defense Forces in 1996, and is not offered for export.
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