Ground missiles gaining priority in Israel

15 December 2021

The growing threat posed by Iran is putting the idea to form a dedicated ground – ground missiles unit in the IDF, on the table again. For now, the idea is discussed in informal type of meeting between relevant parties in the Israeli defence establishment.

Some years ago , the plan to form a dedicated ground – ground missile unit in the Israeli defence forces has been scrapped. The idea was brought up by then defence minister Avigdor liberman. It was met by fierce opposition within the Israeli airfore (IAF) over concerns that such a change would decrease its own procurement budgets.

Elbit Accular 160 launched from the Lynx launcher.

Until a few years ago, the only precise rocket available to the IDF was the upgraded, trajectory corrected multi launch rocket system (MLRS) with a range of 45 km. Israel military industries (IMI), now part of Elbit systems decided to change this situation and offers very accurate, low cost solutions.

The IMI concept is based on the company's extended range artillery missiles like the (Extra), jointly developed with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The trajectory corrected long range missile is aimed at replacing aircraft missions at a range of up to a 150 km. The Extra, which is actually a guided missile, was supposed to replace air-ground weapons in medium and long range strikes.

IAI has also developed a very accurate ground-ground missile - the LORA (Long-Range Artillery weapon system). The LORA is a very accurate weapon system which consists of a long-range tactical ground-to-ground missile developed by IAI's MALAM division. It is intended for strike scenarios with a range of up to 400 km and according to the company has a 10 meters or better CEP.

After the plan was scrapped, the IAF and the industries have focused on developing stand off air launched missiles. The only one that has been exposed is the Rampage, an air – ground missile that was developed jointly by IAI and IMI, now Elbit systems.

According to the companies, the Rampage warhead, rocket and advanced navigation suit allow execution of the assault mission of high quality, well-protected targets with utmost precision.

The Rampage features optimal penetration capability into protected areas. Its focal precision prevents collateral damage at a very low mission cost compared with existing solutions. The targets that best fit the capabilities of the new rocket include communication and command centers, air forces bases, maintenance centers, infrastructures and valuable field targets protected by anti-air systems. The Rampage can operate in any weather conditions, as well as day and night. It offers simplified operation, with no need for a "man in the loop" and can be carried on a broad range of aircraft, manufactured by western or eastern countries. The total weight of the missile is 570 kg and is 4.7 meters long. Its guidance system uses satellite navigation with INS. The max range is classified.

Sources say the Rampage is only one in the arsenal of air launched missiles used by the IAF. Supporters say that such a unit will release the Israeli airforce from dealing with targets in a range of up to 250 km. Opponents still insist that destroying these targets should remain an air force task.

Arie Egozi is a defence writer based in Israel.