A U.K. Ministry of Defence competition for a new anti-armor missile
could affect future European purchases of such weapons in the coming
The contest pits the U.S.-made Javelin fire-and-forget anti-tank
weapon against the shoulder-fired Spike missile, made by Rafael
Armament Development Authority Ltd., of Israel. Javelin is made
by a joint venture of Raytheon Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. It
entered service with the U.S. Army in 1996.
The U.K. program could have a “domino effect,” said
Christopher F. Foss, editor of Jane’s Fighting Vehicles. If
Spike wins, he said, “you’ll find Javelin will not get
any sales in Europe.”
The Spike is in service in Israel and Singapore. Rafael also has
received orders from Finland and the Netherlands. In addition to
the U.K. competition, the Spike also is a candidate for future Australian
and Canadian programs. A decision by the U.K. MOD is expected by
the end of 2002 and the chosen system would enter service in 2005.
For the British contest, Rafael is teamed with European missile
conglomerate MBDA. MBDA has been working to challenge Raytheon’s
lead in the global missile market.
The Spike family has three variants, the Spike MR (medium range—2,500
meters), the Spike LR (long range—4,000 meters) the Spike
ER (extended range—8,000 meters). The MR version—formerly
known as the Gill—is the one that competes against the Javelin.
The Spike ER was designed to be mounted on combat vehicles or helicopters.
It will be marketed as replacement for TOW and the Hellfire anti-tank
missiles, said Retired Israeli Defense Forces Col. Joseph Horowitz,
who is sales director at Rafael. The Spike ER is in service with
the IDF and other unidentified European customers, Horowitz said.
A U.S. industry official dismissed the notion that Spike ER could
pose a serious challenge to TOW or Hellfire. Rafael claims that
Spike ER is in service, but often the IDF is seen firing TOWs, the
source said. Rafael is still “working out the kinks,”
he said. “Rafael is trying to get customers to use Spike ER
as it completes development.”