Israel has demonstrated helicopter launches of the Rafael NT-D anti-tank missile for a team of Polish defence and industry observers.

The missile was selected in 1996 to arm the Polish PZL-Swidnik Huzar attack helicopter, but the selection was called into question when Rafael failed to meet a November deadline to demonstrate the weapon's performance.

Poland's armed forces want 100 Huzars, for which they plan to buy about 2,000 missiles. A further 3,000 of the ground-launched version, believed to be called Spike, are also needed, and deliveries are scheduled to begin in 1999.

The Polish side required that the missile hit a manoeuvring target at a range of 6km (3nm). Military and industry officials decline to comment on the results of the demonstration launches, carried out in the second week of January.

According to sources close to the Huzar programme, the missiles were fired from an Israeli Bell 209 Cobra helicopter. A report on the test results is to be compiled by the observer team by the end of this month, and could be followed by a decision on the missile procurement by the end of February.

Helicopter manufacturer Swidnik assumes that, if the test results have proved satisfactory, then the Huzar development programme will proceed in partnership with Israel's Elbit, which is to provide avionics and weapons for the helicopter, including the NT-D. The main competitor in the partnership competition is Rockwell of the USA, which is offering the option of five possible weapons systems: its own Hellfire II, the Euromissile HOT 2T, Hughes TOWor GEC-Marconi Brimstone, alongside the Rafael missile.

The Israeli package is to include licensed manufacture of the missile in Poland.

Source: Flight International