India making the deadliest Mi-17 helicopter in the world

Mi-17 helicopter
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The Indian Air Force has decided to add firepower to its Mi-17 helicopters by equipping them with Israeli-made Spike NLOS ATGM missiles.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is arming its Russian-origin choppers with Israeli Non-Line of Sight (NLOS) Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs). According to reports, the NLOS missiles are being ordered in limited numbers from Israel and the remaining are likely to be produced under the government’s flagship Make in India program.
According to a report by news agency ANI, the Israeli Spike ATGMs will be integrated with the Russian Mi-17V5 choppers. The missile system can prove to be extremely effective against enemy columns, now on the western as well as northern fronts.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has brought to the limelight names like NLAW, Javelin and Stugna-P. For the uninitiated, these are anti-tank missiles supplied to the Ukrainian Army. The three weapons, which are light enough to be fired by soldiers, have wreaked havoc on Russian tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.

SPIKE Launched from Israeli Apache
SPIKE Launched from Israeli Apache

The conflict in Ukraine has shown anti-tank missiles can do much more than just kill tanks: Earlier this month, Kyiv released footage of a Stugna-P shooting down a Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter.

Spike is a family of anti-tank missiles made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli state-run company.

  • The Indian Army has a variant of the Spike anti-tank missile in its arsenal.
  • The US has validated the Spike NLOS missile from its Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The IAF operates 22 Apache helicopters, and the Indian Army has placed an order for six of these helicopters.

Why It Matters:

  • The missile can reach ranges up to 32 kilometres. While Spike NLOS 50 km variant is in development while Indian made SANT can reach only 10 km.
  • Given the missile’s long-range, it can be used as a precision stand-off strike system, meaning the user can fire the missile at a non-line-of-sight target while remaining at a safe distance or a relatively advantageous position.
  • The missile comes with a real-time wireless data link for ranges up to 25 kilometres. The missile uses its seeker and wireless datalink to give the user real-time video imagery and man-in-the-loop control throughout its flight. When operated in mid-course navigation mode, this feature will allow the user to control the missile in flight to “alter or abort the mission” while it is en route to the target.
  • It is a multi-purpose missile system with three warhead configurations— fragmentation warhead for vehicles with light armour, high explosive anti-tank warhead for armour penetration, and penetrating blast fragmentation warhead for fortified targets.

The Backdrop: The IAF started showing interest in the missile “almost two years ago when the Chinese Army deployed a large number of tanks and infantry combat vehicles close to the Line of Actual Control”, the ANI said.

  • A stand-off, non-line-of-sight missile could prove useful in mountainous Ladakh, as this simple image from Lockheed Martin’s Spike NLOS fact sheet shows. (Lockheed has tied up with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to provide the missile to the US forces.)
Representative Image (Lockheed Martin's Spike NLOS fact sheet)

Representative Image (Lockheed Martin’s Spike NLOS fact sheet)
  • The Chinese claim that their T-15 tank, which they have deployed on the Tibetan plateau and in eastern Ladakh, can hit enemy targets “beyond the line of sight” using the Red Arrow anti-tank missile.

‘Make in India’ is also in the picture.

  • “Spike NLOS ATGMs have been ordered in limited numbers at the moment and the force would look for getting the missiles in larger numbers through ‘Make in India’ solutions,” ANI has reported.

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