JERUSALEM – Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has introduced a new air-to-ground missile, which the company offers as a light ammunition for fixed-wing aircraft performing close support missions.

The Aerospike missile, which was presented at the Special Operations Forces Industrial Conference in Tampa, Florida, is based on the Rafael Spike missile family, said Gal Papier, vice president of business development at the company’s US division.

Spike missiles are used by 39 countries and come in a variety of options, from precision-aimed weapons without a line of sight, which has a range of 30 kilometers (18.6 miles), to a short-range missile fired from the shoulder, which has a range of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles). The U.S. military recently evaluated the latter, and the former has already been used on its helicopters.

Aerospike is based on the Spike LR II, which has a ground launch range of 5.5 kilometers and an air launch range of 10 kilometers. Papier said the missile weighed 14 kilograms (30.9 pounds) and had a search engine and warhead similar to the Spike variant, although the weapon was more suitable for air-to-ground launches.

A company statement said Aerospike could operate in a “contested environment and independent of GPS.” It includes scene matching technology and “detection and tracking capabilities”.

“The real-time data connection allows for seamless man-made operation and advanced lethality with a combination of HEAT (anti-tank) and explosive fragmentation warheads,” the statement said.

Papier noted that the company is targeting the near-air support market and has noticed interest from the C-130’s armed community. Papier said the rocket was already in use by customers, but would not identify anyone. The practice of not naming customers is common for Israeli defense sales.

Viper Strike bombs as well as Griffin and Hellfire missiles have been armed with C-130s before, but Papier said Aerospike stands out among these weapons because of its opposition and passive capabilities.

Rafael plans to launch Aerospike on existing Spike users meeting in Latvia this year, Papier said. Raphael has offered Spike missiles in Europe as part of its Eurospike program in recent years, with Eastern Europe becoming an emerging market for sales.

Seth Franzman is the Israeli correspondent for Defense News. He has covered the conflicts in the Middle East since 2010. He has experience in covering the international coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and is the co-founder and executive director of the Center for Reporting and Analysis in the Middle East.

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