The US Army will begin fielding Rafael’s Spike NLOS long-range air-to-surface missile with its Boeing AH-64E Apache fleet later this year, following the recent completion of qualification testing.

Offering a precision strike capability from a maximum range of around 27nm (50km), the longest-range version of the combat-proven Spike has a launch weight of up to 75kg (165lb).

AH-64E Spike NLOS fit

Source: US Army

The Spike NLOS weapon will give the AH-64E a stand-off strike range of up to 27nm

Last December, Lockheed Martin and the US Army staged a five-day test campaign during which eight Spike NLOS weapons were launched against static and moving ground vehicles, along with a mock-up of a SA-22 surface-to-air missile site. Those engagements were made from between close range and in excess of 16nm, including at night.

The activity also included demonstrating the weapon’s ability to automatically strike an intended target after its launch aircraft intentionally lost its communication link with the weapon.

The successful campaign supported an airworthiness release decision for the weapon to be added to the V6-standard AH-64E. Lockheed said in December that it expects integration work to be completed on an initial 18 aircraft by September 2024, with pilot training activities also to commence around mid-year.

Spike NLOS shot

Source: US Army

The precision weapon has undergone extensive testing for US Army use

Rafael highlighted the capabilities of its Spike family at Defence IQ’s International Military Helicopter conference in London on 28 February, pointing to strong customer interest in its air-launched variants.

“There are a lot of countries interested in the integration of Spike NLOS for Apache ‘Echo’,” the company says, pointing to lessons learned from helicopter operations during the more than two-year-long conflict in Ukraine.

“Everybody is looking for stand-off [range], since the threat is much greater than it used to be,” Rafael says. It notes that many attack helicopter operators continue to employ precision-strike weapons with a range of no more than 4.2km, placing their aircraft at increased risk from ground-based air defence systems.

Referring to the Lockheed AGM-114 Hellfire weapon widely fielded by AH-64 users, the US Army last December noted that the Spike NLOS addition will give its aircraft “a precision weapon with more than four times the range”.

Rafael also is promoting its shorter-range Spike ER2, which offers a 7.5nm capability using radio frequency guidance, or 5.4nm when controlled via fibre-optic cable.

The 34kg weapon has already been integrated with Leonardo Helicopters’ shipborne AW159 for the Philippines and South Korea, and is to equip Romania’s IAR SA330 Puma fleet. The ER2 version also is to arm Airbus Helicopters’ future upgraded Tiger II+ attack helicopter for France and Spain, and Leonardo’s in-development AW249.

The missile also will be carried by Airbus Helicopters H145 light assault rotorcraft flown by undisclosed customers, with Rafael seeing increased demand in this market category.