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Spike SR

Anti-tank guided missile

Spike-SR missile

The Spike SR is the shortest-range missile in the Spike family, and is mostly intended for use in closed terrain

 
 
Country of origin Israel
Entered service 2016
Armor penetration 700 mm behind ERA
Range 1.5 km
Missile length ~ 950 mm
Missile diameter ~ 110 mm
Fin span ?
Missile weight 8.6 kg
Total weight with launcher 9.6 kg
Warhead weight ?
Warhead type HEAT or HEDP
Guidance Infrared imaging

 

   The Rafael Spike SR is an Israeli-produced compact and man-portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) system. Though it represents the smaller end of the spectrum of the Spike series, the Spike SR is actually one of the most recent additions, first being publicly unveiled in 2012. According to the manufacturer, the Spike SR is 2.5 times lighter than the average ATGM in its class. It is exceptionally light for an anti-tank guided weapon.

   As the SR in its name implies, this weapon is primarily meant for use in short-range engagements of 1 km or less; a common combat environment, but one also normally ill-suited to ATGMs. It is based on the design of preceding Spike-series missiles. Developing a smaller missile for shorter-range combat would seem counter-intuitive, but extensive combat in closed terrain such as canyons and cities has shed light on the need for such a weapon. Not only does a smaller ATGM have greater agility in these environments, but given that smaller missiles of a given type tend to be cheaper as well, it gives them a greater degree of expendability (e.g., US forces in Iraq were sometimes reluctant to use missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin, due to its relative cost and scarcity).

   While the exact origins and developmental of the Spike SR have never been published, it is almost certain that its design formula was heavily influenced by fighting throughout the Middle East during the 2000s. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) themselves received quite a bloody nose on the receiving end of modern and compact ATGMs (notably the Kornet) during Operation Cast Lead in 2008, and these weapons made quite an impression. It is likely not a coincidence that development of the the Spike SR was completed within the following 4 years.

   Despite the publicity the Spike SR has received, many relatively simple attributes of the missile have never been publicized. For instance, no pages on the internet seem to indicate the missile's length, diameter, nor the weight of its warhead. Not even Rafael's own Spike SR page has to date featured this information. However, presentations displaying them alongside other Spike missiles suggest that it is basically a shortened version of the Spike LR2. This would suggest that the Spike SR has the same warhead and 110 mm diameter as the Spike LR2.

   The Spike SR is a short missile, with a cylindrical body and a nearly flat dome-like nose. The folding fins are rectangular and very narrow, with the aft fins being longer with curved tips; these are recessed into the fuselage, and spring-out as the missile is launched. The fins are each in a 90-degree crucifix pattern, with the forward fins being set 90 degrees off-angle from the aft fins. The cluster of small sensor windows on the nose includes one large lens and surrounded by a semi-circle of smaller lenses, lending a "paw print" like shape. Early images of the Spike SR depict a large glass-like lens covering the entire nose, a feature which appears to have been ultimately left on the cutting room floor.

   There are two different Command & Launch Unit (CLU) designs that have been demonstrated for the Spike SR, with the earlier design seemingly having been abandoned during development, prior to the first operational use of this missile.

   The early design had a cylindrical tube that was very shallowly bulged-out in the middle. Very long shock absorbers were installed on the muzzle and venturi, with long, lengthwise rectangular lobes. The carrying handle at the top center was a simple strap, with a trapezoid-shaped foam rubber shoulderpad on the underside. The optical sight was located on the lower right side, with a prominent red button (probably the trigger) located on a panel above it. Sling swivels for an adjustable nylon sling are located on the left side of the launcher, at the base of each shock absorber. This launcher no longer appears in contemporary promotional material for the Spike SR, nor is the type of launcher currently in use.

   The current launcher has a completely straight cylindrical tube, with shorter, cropped, conical shock absorbers on the muzzle and venturi, similar to those seen on the AT4. The new optical sight is located on the lower-left side, atop a swept-back padded mount. A shallow L-shaped foam rubber shoulderpad is located on the underside at the middle of the weapon, and a foregrip located across from the sight includes the trigger group. The carrying strap and nylon swivel appear to have been retained, and the muzzle includes a polymer cap which is attached to the front shock absorber by a short nylon strap.

   The composition of the Spike SR has not been published, though the fuselage and fins of the missile are visibly metallic, while the launch tube is made of reinforced fiberglass with foam rubber pads.

   The Spike SR employs an infrared (IR) homing guidance system, which locks-onto the heat emitted by the target. This is a "fire-and-forget" guidance method, which is completely passive; this not only enables the user to immediately change targets or take cover, but also gives no warning to the target apart from the launch signature and airborne projectile. This is also normally an expensive guidance system to use in an ATGM, but Rafael significantly reduced the cost of the missile by using cheaper "off the shelf" optics and electronics.

   Infrared guidance is not infallible, however. Countermeasures such as flares or dazzlers can mislead or blind the missile, though these are relatively uncommon on military ground vehicles.

   One particularly interesting aspect of the guidance system is that the seeker head functions as an imaging infrared camera when the missile is armed in the launcher, creating a direct video feed to the sights. In effect, the user sees exactly what the missile sees, greatly reducing the possibility of launching the missile with an inadequate fix on the target, or at an unintended target. This innovation also eliminates the need for a separate thermal imaging sight on the launcher, and as this technology is said to be much cheaper than the seeker heads normally used on ATGMs, it significantly reduces the cost of both the missile and the launcher.

   The Spike SR is propelled by a solid fuel rocket motor, though little else has been published concerning its propulsion. If the exterior of the Spike SR is any indication, its motor is probably a shorter version of those used in the other Spike family missiles.

   Two types of warheads are employed in the Spike SR; a tandem shaped charge (HEAT), and a High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) munition referred to as a "Penetration-Blast-Fragmentation" (PBF).

   The tandem charge warhead features a precursor charge that defeats Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA), allowing the main warhead to achieve its full penetration of 700 mm rolled homogeneous armor steel equivalent.

   The PBF warhead is basically a type of HEDP munition. It is derived from the munition used in the MATADOR rocket launcher (which is also produced by Rafael). It has less armor penetration than the HEAT warhead used in the standard Spike SR, but has a tremendously improved wall-breaching capability, and exceptionally lethal blast and fragmentation effects inside small structures behind said walls.

   The exceptionally minimal size, weight, and unit cost of the Spike SR allows for smaller formations to use it, than would normally be able to gave an organic ATGM capability; i.e., instead of a small number of dedicated ATGM teams with maybe three launchers at the company level, the Spike SR would be issued to one of the soldiers in each platoon, or potentially even one per squad. It could potentially even be issued as widely as a rocket launcher, though the Spike SR is still much more expensive than most of these.

   Though it was slow to gain acceptance compared to the other missiles in the Spike family, the Spike SR was ultimately adopted by the IDF in 2016, then more recently by the Singaporean Defense Forces in 2017. Israel and Singapore are the only operational users of the Spike SR to date.

   The unit cost of the Spike SR has not been published, but is believed to be approximately $75 000. By comparison, a single example of the competing Raytheon FGM-148 Javelin has a unit cost in excess of $174 000. As of late 2019, the Spike SR is still being manufactured and marketed by Rafael.

 

Similar weapons

 

   Type 01 LMAT: The Kawasaki Type 01 LMAT is the closest IR-homing, man-portable ATGM system to the Spike SR in terms of size, but its weight and range are both still substantially greater. Possibly the most expensive missile of this type, the Type 01 LMAT is used only by the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

   HJ-12: Introduced into the People's Liberation Army in 2014, the NORINCO HJ-12 is another IR-homing man-portable ATGM in the same vein as the US Javelin. Though with almost the same size, range, and overall performance as the Javelin, the HJ-12 is a whole class above the Spike SR.

   MBT-LAW: This joint Anglo-Swedish ATGM is very close in size and range to the Spike SR, but is even cheaper, and employs a simpler inertial guidance system.

 

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Spike-SR missile

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Spike-SR missile

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Spike-SR missile

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