The Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to add firepower to its Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopters by equipping them with Israeli-made Spike ‘Non-Line of Sight (NLOS)’ missiles.
Context: Spike is a family of anti-tank missiles made by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, an Israeli state-run company.
The Indian Army has a variant of the Spike anti-tank missile in its arsenal.
The US has validated the Spike NLOS missile from its Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The IAF operates 22 Apache helicopters, and the Indian Army has placed an order for six of these helicopters.
Why It Matters: The missile can reach ranges up to 32 kilometres.
Given the missile’s long-range, it can be used as a precision stand-off strike system, meaning the user can fire the missile at a non-line-of-sight target while remaining at a safe distance or a relatively advantageous position.
The missile comes with a real-time wireless data link for ranges up to 25 kilometres. The missile uses its seeker and wireless datalink to give the user real-time video imagery and man-in-the-loop control throughout its flight. When operated in mid-course navigation mode, this feature will allow the user to control the missile in flight to “alter or abort the mission” while it is en route to the target.
It is a multi-purpose missile system with three warhead configurations— fragmentation warhead for vehicles with light armour, high explosive anti-tank warhead for armour penetration, and penetrating blast fragmentation warhead for fortified targets.
The Backdrop: The IAF started showing interest in the missile “almost two years ago when the Chinese Army deployed a large number of tanks and infantry combat vehicles close to the Line of Actual Control”, ANI report said.
A stand-off, non-line-of-sight missile could prove useful in mountainous Ladakh, as this simple image from Lockheed Martin’s Spike NLOS fact sheet shows. (Lockheed has tied up with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems to provide the missile to the US forces.)
The Chinese claim that their T-15 tank, which they have deployed on the Tibetan plateau and in eastern Ladakh, can hit enemy targets “beyond the line of sight” using the Red Arrow anti-tank missile.
‘Make in India’ is also in the picture.
“Spike NLOS ATGMs have been ordered in limited numbers at the moment and the force would look for getting the missiles in larger numbers through ‘Make in India’ solutions,” ANI has reported.