IAF looks to buy precision rockets for helicopters

Attack helicopters regularly frequently used for airstrikes in the Gaza Strip; IAF wants to move away from expensive Hellfire air-to-surface missile.

APACHE HELICOPTERS in the South 370 (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
In an effort to improve its accuracy in urban warfare, the Israel Air Force is looking to purchase precision rockets for its helicopters, which are frequently used for airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.
IAF sources said the requirement for a guided rocket was issued in an attempt to improve its level of accuracy and to lower costs by moving away from using the expensive Hellfire air-to-surface missile.
The new rocket would be used by the IAF’s attack helicopter fleet comprising of Apache and Cobras.
“Our enemies hid inside urban settings and we need to be as accurate as possible in our operations,” a senior IAF officer explained.
The IAF is looking at Elbit Systems’ Guided Advanced Tactical Rocket (GATR), which uses a laser homing seeker to achieve accuracy against stationary and moving targets. Pilots using the GATR can lock onto targets prior to launch at ranges of 1-8 km.
Another possibility would be to purchase a rocket from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’ family of Spike anti-tank guided missiles, which can also be launched from helicopters. The Spike Extended Range, for example, has a range of up to 8 km. like the GATR, but has the ability to update and switch targets after launch.
The IAF requirement for accurate rockets comes as the IDF moves forward with plans to equip its ground forces with precision rockets as well. In July, the IDF issued a tender to Israeli industries for rocket systems, which it believes will increase its strike capabilities ahead of a future conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Under the IDF’s plan, the Artillery Corps, which will operate the rockets, will establish a number of new rocket battalions within its various brigades.
Behind the requirement to obtain longer-range rockets with great precision is an overall IDF desire to take some of the load off the air force and allow it to focus strictly on strategic targets deep in enemy territory.
With the new rocket systems, the IDF will create a division of responsibility between the Artillery Corps and IAF to clarify who is responsible for which targets and at which ranges.