US Air Force Test Squadron Helps Army Apache Helicopter with Spike NLOS Demo
US Air Force Test Squadron Helps Army Apache Helicopter with Spike NLOS Demo

US Air Force Test Squadron Helps Army Apache Helicopter with Spike NLOS Demo

The U.S. Army’s new Spike missile completed a demonstration last month here thanks to the 780th Test Squadron. The U.S. Army Futures Command Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team and the Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center brought the AH-64 here for the evaluation. The 96th Test Wing squadron was responsible for planning and executing the maritime (over water) demonstration of the non-line-of-sight, multi-purpose weapon using the U.S. Army’s AH-64E Apache attack helicopter. Based on the success of testing, the Spike NLOS will serve as an interim solution to the gap in precision targeting at extended ranges. The weapon can strike targets four times further than the Boeing Apache’s current carried munitions. It also serves a dual purpose in informing the requirements for Army Aviation’s enduring standoff weapon, the Long-Range Precision Munition. A test was conducted in March 2021 where an AH-64E fired a Spike NLOS at a target 32 km (20 mi) away and scored a direct hit.

The SPIKE Non-Line of Sight missile is integrated onto a U.S. Apache helicopter before testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in August 2019.

Day 1 – Modifications were made to the aircraft and the weapon was set up. Testers checked all flight and ground systems to make sure they were working correctly and with the weapon and any test telemetry added to the aircraft.
Day 2,3 – The test teams went through rehearsals and performed practice shots. This benefited the pilots and test support teams to make sure everyone knew where to be and what would most likely happen during the actual test. It also ensured all systems were working in flight and allowed the team to plan for any unforeseen emergency procedures.
Day 4 – This was the actual test day. The Apache launched the Spike from 32 kilometers away and scored a direct hit on a stationary vessel.
Another planned flight that included a strike on a moving target, was cancelled due to weather.

The SPIKE Non-Line of Sight missile mounted on a U.S. Army Apache helicopter.

The Foreign Comparative Testing Program assisted the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team (FVL CFT) and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center (CCDC AvMC) to acquire, test and evaluate a promising foreign Israeli technology, the SPIKE Non-Line of Sight missile. The effort involved acquiring, incorporating the system on the airframe and firing the SPIKE NLOS missile from a U.S. Army AH-64E Apache helicopter at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), Arizona, in August 2019. These unique authorities were instrumental when the FVL CFT and CCDC AvMC began assessing the Israeli SPIKE NLOS missile for possible procurement. The SPIKE NLOS missile supports the Army’s third modernization priority, Future Vertical Lift’s signature effort the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA).

The SPIKE Non-Line of Sight missile moments after leaving the launcher.

Spike is an Israeli fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile and anti-personnel missile with a tandem-charge HEAT warhead, currently in its fourth-generation. It was developed and designed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It is available in man-portable, vehicle-launched, and helicopter-launched variants. “Non Line Of Sight” is an ultra long-range version of the weapon (Israeli designation: Tamuz), with a claimed maximum range of 25 kilometres (16 miles). It is a significantly larger missile than other Spike variants, with an overall weight of around 70 kg (154 lb 5 oz). It can be launched from the ground or from helicopters. It was developed following lessons learned in the Yom Kippur War, which showed a need for a high-precision guided tactical ground-to-ground battlefield missile. The Spike NLOS uses a fiber optic link similar to other Spike versions, but only out to 8 km, after which it employs a radio data link for command guidance.

The AH-64E Apache testbed used for the demonstration can be seen with a pair of Spike NLOS missiles on its right-side outer weapons pylon.