Israel and Germany are jointly developing a smart missile that could be sold together with the Eurofighter currently in service worldwide, including in Saudi Arabia.
The air-to-ground missile, called PILUM, is under development by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Germany’s Diehl, and is based on Rafael’s Spice missile which has the reported ability to hit targets while aircraft are positioned at a standoff range of 100 kilometers away.
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The twin-engine Eurofighter is currently in use in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Saudi Arabia. It was unclear if the new missile would be offered to all Eurofighter operators – including Saudi Arabia – or if Israel would condition its participation in the development on banning the missile from being sold to Arab countries.
The new missile is unique in its ability to hit targets by using a GPS satellite guidance system, or alternatively with electro-optical guidance – meaning that the pilot or navigator can direct the missile towards its target by watching live video footage as the missile speeds towards it.
Diehl said that the dual-targeting systems make the PILUM an ideal weapon for use in operations when targets are on the move. The Spice is operational in the Israeli Air Force and is configured to be launched from F- 16 and F-15 fighter jets.
The PILUM, Diehl said, could be used against ships, enemy radar positions as well as air defense systems.
“It opens new possibilities of flexible mission planning and execution in view of rapidly changing air-to-ground scenarios,” the German company said.
A decision to develop the new missile was concluded a few months ago and a sketch of it was unveiled in late June at the Paris Air Show.
The primary advantage of the missile is the ability to use two different systems to bomb targets. For example, in the event that satellite systems are not working during a future conflict, an operator will be able to upload a picture of a target into the missile, which, using unique scene-matching algorithms, adjusts the missile’s flight path to find the target.
In related news, Der Spiegel reported Sunday that Germany has decided to sell more than 200 Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia in a multi-billion dollar deal.
A German government spokesman declined to comment on the report that said Saudi Arabia was interested in acquiring more than 200 2A7+ tanks, saying the government provided no information on decisions regarding export deals.
The tanks are made by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall.
Der Spiegel said Saudi Arabia has long sought the Leopard tanks from Germany, but the country had repeatedly turned down the requests, citing a danger to Israel.
The report said the government no longer considered Saudi Arabia a threat for Israel.
Benjamin Weinthal contributed to the report.