Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) continue to play larger roles in surveillance and warfare, requiring development of effective, agile defensive strategies. Developed in response to the needs of a weapon against fast-moving vehicles during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Spike missile may be the solution to fighting tactical UAVs.
This conclusion was borne out by recent testing by the U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD). The NAWCWD Spike team, during a demonstration conducted late last year in China Lake, Calif., destroyed a rogue UAV with a Spike missile in a single shot (see photo).
“The team worked really hard to get us to the point where everything was smooth,” said Spike Project Manager Gavin Swanson. “We’ve had a notion for years that UAVs would be a problem, and I think we’re well-placed to have an imminent solution to the threat.”
The missile was tested with a proximity fuze provided by the U.S. Army. The fuze allows detonation of the missile’s warhead in direct contact with the UAV, or else in close proximity. Tests were conducted using the Spike missiles and proximity fuzes on two different UAV targets, destroying the hostile UAV each time with one shot.
The Spike missiles actually encompass a family of different short-range missiles, including miniature, man-portable weapons with line-of-sight (LOS) range of about 800 m to larger, vehicle-transportable missiles with longer-distance non-line-of-sight (NLOS) range of 8 km or more. The key to developing a defense against tactical drones is the use of smaller, lighter, more agile missiles, and the fuzing system provides the means of destroying an enemy UAV once the missile has achieved close range to the target.