Tammuz: the 30-year history of Israel’s famous missile

It has been 30 years since the IDF began using a once-secret missile that has now been sold to dozens of countries around the world and, according to foreign reports, used by the Israeli military against Iranian targets in Syria.

The history of the surface-to-surface fire and forget Tammuz (Spike) missile, which was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, begins in 1974 just after the Yom Kippur War, where the IDF faced difficult operational scenarios from numerous tank transports. . invading Israel that were difficult to stop.

“We needed a solution to stop convoys before they reached our border and before our units entered their range,” said Zvi Marmor, head of the Precision Tactical Weapons Systems Division at Rafael. “We wanted an apocalyptic weapon to make sure Yom Kippur didn’t happen again.”

The Yom Kippur war was almost a complete surprise to Israel, and the warning notice was given too late for an orderly call for reserves to the Syrian and Egyptian armies, trained by the Soviet Union and armed with a profusion of modern weapons. launched a joint surprise attack on IDF positions on the Golan Heights and on the Sinai Peninsula.

The war has gone down in Israeli history as a failure that resulted in the deaths of 2,688 IDF soldiers, thousands more wounded and hundreds captured. More than 1,000 tanks and hundreds of aircraft were destroyed or damaged.

Yom Kippur War (credit: Menashe Azuri / La’am)

It was also around this time that the Soviet-made T-72 tank arrived in the Middle East, a modern tank that the IDF missiles were unable to stop.

And so, several years after the initial idea emerged, in 1979, the very secret project began that developed the world’s first electro-optical missile for ground forces that would be capable of stopping such tanks.

Work on the missile and its launcher advanced at full speed, and in 1982 the first development was finalized and Rafael began producing it for the IDF, which then deployed the secret missile to the Moran unit of the Parachute Brigade, Marmor told The Jerusalem. Mail.

Several years later, in 1991, the IDF decided to move the unit to the Artillery Corps and renamed it Meitar, as the Parachute unit “was not a good place for the missile as it had complex operational challenges,” he added.

It was first used by the IDF Artillery Corps in 1991, and several years later the Spike was also installed on naval aircraft and ships, and was first used during the Second Intifada by soldiers from the Meitar unit of the Artillery Corps against Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip and then against Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War of 2006, when some 500 missiles were fired at targets belonging to the terrorist group.

In the years since then, Rafael has improved the capabilities (NLOS) of the initial missile, as well as its range (from 6-8 km. To 32 km.) And lethality.

The missile is capable of penetrating 99 cm (39 inches) of armor and can be operated in both direct attack and midway navigation based solely on target coordinates. These modes allow for the defeat of long-range hidden targets, with pinpoint precision, damage assessment and real-time intelligence gathering.

It can be fired from vehicles, helicopters, ships, and land launchers, and has advanced electro-optical seekers that include capabilities of a smart target tracker with artificial intelligence features.

Designed for use against new modern targets with low signature and time-sensitive characteristics, the missile also includes a new third-party targeting enhancement (network-enabled) with a built-in inertial measurement unit assembly, which enables missiles to shoot up the net. target coordinates, including advanced armor and protection systems, making it one of the only missiles in the world with this capability.

BUT THE missile was kept secret by the IDF and the defense establishment, as well as by Rafael until 2011. By then, it had also been sold to international customers and used in conflicts far from Israel’s borders.

Spike’s first international client was the British Army, when he asked Israel to urgently help him protect his troops, and a specific soldier, Prince Harry, from fighters in the Iraqi city of Basra in 2007.

“They needed something very relevant to the battlefield in order to protect the prince from mortar attacks,” Marmor said.

Rafael worked day and night to make the system relevant to the British Army, but in the end the prince was not sent to Basra, “so the need was not so urgent. However, the missile was used in Basra ”and in Afghanistan, where the British had also deployed troops in the fight against the Taliban.

“In the end, the system was more reliable than the prince,” Marmor said, laughing.

After their successful deployment, the British ordered more missiles, and soon other countries followed.

Since then, the missile has been sold in various versions to 38 countries around the world, including 20 NATO forces. More than 33,000 rounds have been produced and supplied, and up to 45 different platforms have been integrated, including attack helicopters, land vehicles and marine vessels.

The IDF also has thousands of Spike missiles, including specially customized Spike SR rocket launchers for its infantry forces that are 40% reduced in weight to provide greater flexibility for troops in the field during ground maneuvers. It is also in use by the Israeli Air Force and Navy.

According to Syrian reports, Israel has also used the Spike missile against Iranian targets in the war-torn country, most recently last weekend when a weapons storage unit was attacked outside Damascus in a rare daytime attack.

Rafael now has three missiles in the Spike family: Spike NLOS (no line of sight), Spike ER (extended range), Spike MR / LR (mid / long range), and Spike SR (short range).

“The Spike is a brand; it’s a great family, ”said Marmor. For the military around the world, “the brand is almost as famous as Nike or Coca-Cola.”

The most popular, Marmor, said is the fifth-generation Spike LR2 missile, used by infantry units around the world.

And three decades after the idea of ​​a missile stopping an enemy tank convoy became a reality, for Marmor, there is still much more to do.

“We are always developing and improving the missile. We are always working on his ranks, abilities, lethality and to make him more efficient on the battlefield, ”he said. “We never stop; we can not. Because if we ever stop, we will no longer be relevant. ” •


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