Apache helicopters can currently knock out enemy tanks, light bunkers, and personnel from over 7.5 miles away. But the Army is looking at a future world where a new generation of attack and scout helicopters might be engaging Chinese ships and Russian air defenses on islands in the Pacific or mountains across Eurasia. And so they want to increase their range, and a new missile would double it.
Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team
The Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, an organization named by an old Xerox machine that gained sentience, is testing the Spike-NLOS on an AH-64E Apache attack helicopter.
Right now, the Apache’s longest-range munition is its Hellfire Anti-Tank Guided Missile. This time-tested bad boy can deliver a shaped-charge warhead against a target 7.5 miles away.
But the Russian S-400 can kill targets about 25 miles away. So imagine that first strike of Desert Storm where Apaches conducted a deep raid against Iraqi air defenses. Now imagine them needing to secretly cross 17 miles of desert under enemy radar coverage before they could launch their missiles.
Every foot you can whittle off that vulnerable distance would save pilots’ lives in combat. And those AFVLCFT fellas might have whittled off 7.5 miles (that’s 39,600 feet, for anyone still whittling away).
The AFLCIO’s choice of the Spike-NLOS provides more than just greater range, though. It has a fiber-optic cable that spools out behind it as it flies, allowing the pilot to give new commands while the missile is in the air. Pilots can even fire the missile into a target area before spotting an enemy. As the missile is flying, the pilot can then designate who it should kill. And it has a tandem warhead allowing it to defeat most reactive armor.
The Spike-NLOS is already in production for Israeli forces, so American forces could see it whenever Congress ponies up the cash. Provided, you know, that the AARDVARK recommends it.