Video Report Above: Army Research Lab Develops AI-Enabled Robot Tanks
By Michael Peck,The National Interest
The U.S. Army is arming its AH-64 Apache attack helicopters with an Israeli missile that will enable Apaches to hit targets without a line of sight.
The Spike NLOS (non-line-of-sight) missile will allow Apaches to remain safely behind cover – a hill or trees – while they guide the munition to the target.
The Spike NLOS uses electro-optical guidance – basically a camera – with both day and night vision. With a range of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), the missile uses a wireless data link to connect to the firing platform. “Spike NLOS provides the gunner with the unique ability to attack targets at stand-off range with no line of sight,” according to manufacturer Rafael’s product sheet. “The Spike NLOS weapon system can be operated in either direct attack or mid-course navigation based on target coordinates only. These modes enable the defeat of long-range hidden targets with pinpoint precision, damage assessment and the obtaining of real-time intelligence.”
A Defense News journalist witnessed a U.S. Army test of the Apache-Spike combination at the Yuma Proving Ground in August 2019. “The test shots were performed in challenging terrain. The AH-64 hid behind 1,600 feet of craggy mountain and took take aim at a target representing a Russian Pantsir medium-range, surface-to-air missile system on the opposite slope. In the shot witnessed by Defense News, the Apache flew just a couple of hundred feet above the highest obstacle in the desert when the missiles were fired.
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“The missiles hit every target across nine total shots used to evaluate the system. The last missile firing resulted in the weapon hitting a moving target in the dark.”
Spike NLOS is part of a family of Spike missiles, including the shoulder-fired Spike SR anti-tank missile, the Spike LR2 with a range of three miles and the Spike ER2 with a range of 6 to 10 miles. Spike missiles are used by 33 nations, with 30,000 missiles sold, according to Rafael.
Why is the U.S. Army buying an Israeli missile? It’s a temporary solution while the Army grapples with how to equip its attack helicopters with stand-off missiles and drones. The increasing lethality and proliferation of sophisticated air defense systems is a powerful incentive for helicopters to keep as much distance as possible from their targets, just as deadlier anti-aircraft systems spurred the development of glide bombs and other stand-off weapons for fixed-wing strike aircraft.
“The Army is moving forward to address a much-desired capability, particularly when considering how the service will fight in the future where greater stand-off to go up against enemy targets is paramount to successful operations,” Defense News noted.
The push for stand-off weapons for its helicopters is part of a broader Army push for longer-range weapons, especially given fears that Russia’s arsenal of artillery and tactical missiles outranges their American counterparts. For example, the Army’s Precision Strike Missile project aims to develop a missile with a range of about 300 miles.