Spike Served: Indias New ATGM, Cancelled for Now

Spike firing
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India has been looking for a modern anti-tank/ infantry strike missile to take the place of MBDA Milan missiles that have been produced under license by Bharat Dynamics. The finalists in this competition were the American fire-and-forget Javelin, and Israel’s Spike with its combination of wire guided or fire-and-forget modes. As of October 2014, Spike appears to have won, despite offers from the USA to involve India in developing the next version of Javelin.

The Spike Family

Spike family

The Spike infantry system consists of a missile in its cannister, a tripod, a Command Launch Unit that contains the optics and firing system, and a battery. It can go from “off” to firing in less than 30 seconds, as the operator lays the cross hairs on the aim point using either the 10x day sight, or the clip-on thermal imaging night sight.

Fire-and-forget targeting uses the imaging infrared (IIR) seeker, but there’s also an optional fully guided mode, using a fiber optic wire that spools out from the rear. They can be combined via “fire and forget plus,” which locks a target before launch but can be used to change targets or abort after launch. The missile flies in a lofted trajectory, hitting the target in a terminal dive and detonating a tandem high-explosive warhead that can defeat explosive reactive armor. The lofted trajectory also allows the missile to hit targets that are behind earthen walls, or otherwise not directly visible in line of sight. Reloading takes less than 15 seconds.

Spike-MR/ Gill is designed as an infantry-only weapon, and weighs 26 kg/ 57.2 pounds when fully assembled (13.3 kg missile in cannister, 5 kg CLU, 4 kg Thermal Sight, 1 kg missile, 2.8 kg tripod). Its effective range is 2.5 km. Spike-LR is a vehicle and infantry weapon that uses common systems, and extends effective range to 4 km. Vehicle variants include launch mountings and a control console, and Spike has been integrated into missile-capable Remote Weapons Systems.

Beyond these infantry weapons, Spike-ER is a larger missile that equips a number of helicopter types, and reaches out to 8 km. A special helicopter and vehicle-mounted variant called Spike-NLOS extends range to 25 km, and relies heavily on “fire and forget plus” via optical guidance. Neither appears to be on India’s acquisition radar just yet, but once Indian firms are license-building Spike family weapons, the government can always sign subsequent agreements to broaden its scope.

Contracts & Key Events

Spike infantry components

Spike components
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January 4/18: Deal Cancelled Israeli missile specialist Rafael has got the jump on the Indian Defense Ministry, telling media Wednesday that New Dehli has cancelled a $500 million order for Spike anti-tank missiles. The firm said that it “regrets the decision and remains committed to cooperating with the Indian Ministry of Defence and to its strategy of continuing to work in India, an important market, as it has for more than two decades, to provide India with the most advanced and innovative systems.” While Indian officials had no immediate comment on the cancellation, it is believed that the ordering of such missiles would “adversely impact the program for indigenous development of the weapon system by DRDO [India’s Defense Research and Development Organization],” according to Indian media. News of the cancellation comes less than two weeks before a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to India, and follows last summer’s visit by his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to Israel last summer. Rafael’s CEO, who is to join Netanyahu on the trip (awkward), said the cancellation was made prior to the signing of the final contract and despite the firm’s compliance with all demands. However, a consolation thrown out by New Delhi on Tuesday—the same day the Spike deal was officially dumped—is the $70 million for 131 Barak anti-air missiles for its first aircraft carrier.

August 10/17: India’s Kalyani Group, in partnership with Israel’s Rafael, has opened the country’s first-ever private missile subsystems manufacturing facility. Located in Hyrdabad and trading under the name Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems, the facility will undertake the production and assembly of Spike anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) and its related technologies such as missile electronics, command, control and guidance, electro-optics, remote weapon systems, precision-guided munitions, and system engineering. In addition to establishing a robust supply chain in India to undertake spares and other parts requirements of missiles to be manufactured in the country, the joint venture will also look to export Spike ATGM family and SPICE precision-guided munitions to Southeast Asian counties. The company can also boast the status of being India’s largest-ever foreign direct investment joint venture firm.

March 27/17: India is moving ahead with a $1 billion procurement of Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The Spike will see New Delhi acquire 275 launchers and 5,500 Spike missiles in completed and kit form along with an undisclosed number of simulators, and also includes a technology transfer to India’s state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) to build another 1,500 systems and around 30,000 additional missiles. Meanwhile, Israel is considering selling armed Heron TP UAVs, including the technology transfers necessary to meet the “Make in India” requirement. A decision on the Heron deal will be made following Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel this July.

August 18/15: The German Army is reportedly buying Spike-LR Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) from Israel’s Rafael Defense Systems. The missile family has found export success with India, with the Bundeswehr planning to equip some Puma IFVs with the weapon. The German Defense Ministry has reportedly already purchased a number of the missiles, with the integration with Puma vehicles scheduled for completion by 2018.

Oct 24/14: Spike picked. India’s top-level Defence Acquisition Council clears INR 900 billion in acquisitions. New submarines are the biggest, but there’s also clearance for up to INR 32 billion to buy and license-build about 300 Spike family launcher systems and 8,000 missiles.

Other DAC clearances include INR 530 billion for 6 submarines; 2 SDV underwater commando delivery vehicles; INR 20 billion to have the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board build about 360 more BMP-2 tracked IFVs under license; and INR 18.5 billion for 12 more license-built Do-228NG short-range transport and maritime surveillance aircraft from HAL. Sources: NDTV, “6 Made-in-India Submarines for Navy for 53,000 Crores” | IANS, “Defence ministry clears Israeli anti-tank missile, six submarines”.

DAC Approval: Spike wins

Nov 11/13: DAC delays. Indian defense minister AK Antony and the Defence Acquisition Council give Javelin an opening in India, by delaying any decision on INR 150 billion project to equip India with 321 Spike family launchers and 8,356 of RAFAEL’s Spike-MR missiles.

Raytheon had received the Indian Army’s 2010 RFP, but only RAFAEL responded. Europe’s MBDA, Russia’s Rosoboronexport, Raytheon, and General Dynamics reportedly balked at India’s technology-transfer requirements, and did not bid. The Lockheed/ Raytheon Javelin needs the competition to be withdrawn and replaced by another RFP that it can enter, at which point India’s own state-run firms might choose to offer a version of their problem-plagued Nag missile. DAC’s non-decision leaves the entire situation very unclear.

Even if RAFAEL does win, Javelin is expected to remain a viable competitor for subsequent infantry buys. Sources: Times of India, “Antony defers decision on critical but controversial missile deals with Israel” | Defense News, “India Again Considers Buying Israeli-made ATGM” | Defense News, “India Pursues Indigenous ATGM Amid Javelin Talks” | Times of India, “Scam-wary Army calls off Israeli missile deal” (March 2013).

Nov 29/12: Competition. The Times of India reports that Israel’s Spike-MR missile may be about to elbow Javelin aside, because the Israelis are willing to transfer enough technology to allow production in India.

The Ministry eventually wants to equip all 356 of its infantry battalions with an estimated 2,000 launchers and 24,000 missiles, produced by state-owned Bharat Dynamics. The Army reportedly wants to complete the induction of these anti-tank guided missiles by the end of the 12th Plan (2017).

Sept 23/12: Javelin issues. India remains interested in the Lockheed/Raytheon Javelin. Their soldiers fired some in 2009 joint exercises with American troops, and Defence Minister AK Antony said in August 2010 that a Letter of Request would be sent. So, why has no DSCA request been approved? India’s PTI explains that conditions regarding the secrecy of certain components are holding up an agreement. This isn’t the first time transfer of technology and proprietary designs have had an impact on US-Indian sales, and it won’t be the last. Raytheon will say only that:

“The Javelin JV stands ready to respond to all requests of the Indian government relating to the evaluation and procurement of the combat-proven missile while ensuring it adheres to a US and Indian governments’ agreement.”

If Javelin continues to hit roadblocks, Israel’s RAFAEL awaits with its popular Spike family.

March 25/11: RFP exclusion. Spike MR was the only bidder in India’s international tender, in part of because of language requiring an “active-passive fire-and-forget guidance system,” which only Spike meets. Most other missiles are either active/ passive guidance that requires crosshairs on target (GBM-71 TOW, AT-14 Kornet, MBDA Milan-ER), or fire and forget (FGM-148 Javelin). Defense Update writes:

“The Indian Army plans to install the missiles on infantry combat vehicles currently carrying locally produced AT-5 or Milan missiles.

The Indian Ministry of Defense plans to order 321 launchers, and 8,356 missiles, plus 15 training simulators in a multi-phase arms package worth over one billion US$. Two options are currently on the table – the U.S. Javelin and the Israeli Spike MR.”

Reports are currently conflicting. Defense Update suggests that both programs are proceeding in parallel channels, and at some point either the RFP (Spike MR) or a government-to-government deal (Javelin) will win out. The challenge for RAFAEL is that India has rules discouraging awards to competitions that wind up with just 1 compliant vendor, so a waiver will be needed. For Javelin, the issue is technology transfer. Sources: Defense Update, “Spike or Javelin? India Still Undecided on a Billion Dollar Missile Buy”.

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