Recent photos of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) AH-64D equipped for the carriage of Rafael Spike missiles show that the indigenous precision-attack system is operational on the air arm’s attack helicopters.
The photographs, taken by an AFM correspondent, have been cleared by the Israel Defense Forces censor, demonstrating that the Spike is now officially considered part of the Israeli AH-64D armoury.
The missiles’ twin launcher is mounted on the right stub wing of AH-64D Saraf 743.
The weapons carried may well be the Spike NLOS (Non Line Of Sight) that has already been integrated on several rotary-wing platforms, including the AW159 Wildcat helicopter for the Republic of Korea. This electro-optically guided weapon has a range of around 15.5 miles (25km).
The latest AH-64D-I Saraf was built according to Israeli requirements, and externally resembles the Apache Longbow. However, thanks to the installation of Israeli-made avionics, its capabilities are greatly enhanced. Apart from weapons, Israeli systems integrated in the Saraf include an Elta communications suite, Elbit mission management system, Rafael Combat Net system and Elisra self-protection suite.
The history of the Saraf began in December 2000, when the Israeli government signed an agreement with the US Department of Defense to acquire nine AH-64D-Is, one of which was converted from an existing IAF AH-64A Peten. The cost of the programme, including helicopters, weapons, spare parts, training and support was estimated at around $500m. Subsequently, contracts were signed to bring another 12 AH-64As up to AH-64D-I standard. Arrangements were made to allow Boeing to modify the helicopters, introducing specific equipment requests from Israel. The Saraf entered service in April 2005 and now the IAF has somewhat fewer than 20 AH-64D-Is.
The operating unit is 113 ‘Hornet’ Squadron based at Ramon.