India was looking for a tactical missile system to thwart any threats from Chinese or Pakistani main battle tanks and infantry vehicles. While there were many options on the table by 2019, why did India choose the Israeli tank-buster Spike missile over the US’ Javelin?
India had opted for the third-generation Israeli Spike MR (medium-range) anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) following the Balakot airstrike in 2019.
Accordingly, an order was placed for 240 missiles and 12 launchers as part of an “emergency purchase” to meet immediate operational requirements.
Designed by the Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Spike is a fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile and anti-personnel missile with a tandem-charge HEAT warhead.
The Spike ATGM possesses the ability to penetrate around one meter of armor and 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, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The more advanced missiles, which can be fired from vehicles, helicopters, ships, and ground launchers, have advanced optical seekers, smart target trackers, and various artificial intelligence features.
India had also procured the 4th-generation Spike LR (long-range) missiles in early December 2020. The country has reportedly acquired over 200 Spike ATGMs through the emergency procurement route.
The American Javelin Missile
According to reports, in 2019, American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin was ready to offer India its Javelin ATGMs through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) between the countries.
Signed in 2012, the DTTI was aimed at identifying and promoting major joint development and manufacturing projects for the defense forces.
The Javelin ATGM is a portable, fire-and-forget system capable of destroying the latest tanks and heavily fortified defenses. The Javelin missile uses an automatic infrared guidance system as opposed to a traditional wired guided ATGM.
The American Javelin is considered among the best and most sought-after ATGMs in the world. The missile, however, does not come cheap, as one Javelin ATGM is priced over $100,000.
The Javelin ATGM deal itself involves the purchase of 410 portable anti-tank missiles, 72 units of sighting and launching equipment, 10 training complexes worth a total of $75 million. However, the deal never materialized and India picked the Israeli Spike instead.
Why The Israeli Weapon?
The primary reason for New Delhi’s decision to pick the Spike ATGMs was because unlike the US, Israel was willing to transfer technology and manufacture the missiles in India, giving a boost to the Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Besides, the Spike’s immense success and its utilization with nations across the world pushed New Delhi to opt for the Israeli ATGMs.
According to reports, other than India, Rafael has supplied more than 27,000 Spike missiles and systems to over 26 countries, including the Philippines, Lithuania, and Australia.
The Spike missile series is a testament to the overall ability of the Israeli defense complex to produce novel solutions to diverse threats.