The SPYDER (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) is an Israeli short and medium range mobile air defence system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with assistance from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Rafael is the prime contractor and IAI is the major subcontractor for the SPYDER program. This system achieved a notable milestone in 2005 when missiles were fired against test targets in Shdema, Israel and scored direct hits. Since then, it has been showcased in multiple military exhibitions throughout the world.
The SPYDER is a low-level, quick-reaction surface-to-air missile system capable of engaging aircraft, helicopters, unmanned air vehicles, drones, and precision-guided munitions. It provides air defence for fixed assets and for point and area defence for mobile forces in combat areas. The system is fitted atop a Tatra truck, a Mercedes-Benz Actros truck, a MAN TGS truck, Scania P-series truck, or a Dongfeng truck. It implements the Python-5 and Derby missiles of the same company. The SPYDER launcher is designed to fire Python-5 and Derby surface-to-air missiles which share full commonality with the air-to-air missiles. There are two variants of the SPYDER: the SPYDER-SR (short range) and the SPYDER-MR (medium range). Both systems are quick reaction, all weather, network-centric, multi-launchers, and self-propelled. A typical battery consists one central command and control unit, six missile firing units, and a resupply vehicle. The SPYDER-SR uses the EL/M-2106 ATAR radar while the SPYDER-MR incorporates the EL/M-2084 MMR radar. The latter is the same radar used by the Iron Dome system currently in service with the Israel Defense Forces.
Current operators of the SPYDER missiles system include India and Singapore. Peru's order for the SPYDER was pending as of 2012. There are reports that claim that Georgia operated the SPYDER-SR throughout the 2008 Russo-Georgian War but these allegations and assumptions have never been verified.
In 2005, a milestone for the SPYDER air defence system was achieved. The SPYDER successfully fired the Python 5 and Derby in a test range located in Shdema, Israel. The results were two direct kills against a couple of targets. At the trial, the radar and command and control unit engaged the targets at long and short ranges. The trial was part of a greater series of missile firings.
The SPYDER air defence system has been showcased in 29 military exhibitions throughout the world. These exhibitions are:
- 2004 DEFEXPO
- 2006 DEFEXPO
- 2006 Asian Aerospace
- 2006 International Defense Exhibition Bratislava
- 2006 Eurosatory
- 2007 AeroIndia Aerospace Exhibition
- 2007 IDET
- 2007 IDEF
- 2007 Paris Air Show
- 2007 MSPO International Defence Industry Exhibition
- 2007 Korean Aerospace and Defense Exhibition
- 2007 Expomil
- 2008 DEFEXPO
- 2008 Singapore International Air Show
- 2008 FIDAE
- 2008 Land Warfare Conference and Exhibition
- 2009 Aero India Aerospace Exhibition
- 2009 Australian Air Show
- 2009 Paris Air Show
- 2009 MSPO International Defence Industry Exhibition
- 2009 Expomil
- 2010 Singapore Air Show
- 2010 DEFEXPO
- 2010 FIDAE
- 2010 Eurosatory
- 2011 Aero India Aerospace Exhibition
- 2011 Latin America Aero & Defence
- 2011 SITDEF
- 2011 Paris Air Show
Command and control
The Elta EL/M-2106 Advanced Tactical Acquisition Radar (ATAR) 3D Active electronically scanned array (AESA) surveillance radar is the Command and Control Unit (CCU) for the SPYDER-SR. This radar can track and engage multiple targets simultaneously and can control the missile firing units at a distance of up to 10 km away from the CCU. The E/LM-2106 ATAR is a fourth generation defence radar designed by Elta and operates in the L-band wavelength. It is a field proven design that has operated in undesirable environments according to the designers and manufacturers. The range of detection for a fighter aircraft is 70–110 km. It can detect hovering helicopters at a range of 40 km and UAVs at 40–60 km.
The radar sensor unit of the SPYDER-MR comprises the EL/M-2084 Multi Mission Radar (MMR) 3D AESA radar. The EL/M-2084 operates in the S-band. It can process up to 1200 targets when in air surveillance mode and additionally detects targets located 250 km away. When the radar is static, it covers 120° in the azimuth.
Ranges of Interception
As a short range air defence system, the SPYDER-SR has a short range of interception. The maximum altitude of interception is 9 km and the maximum range of interception is 15 km. The SPYDER-MR has a greater operation range of 35 km and an altitude engagement of 16 km due to the missiles being equipped with boosters.
The Python-5 is currently the most capable air-to-air missile (AAM) in Israel's inventory and one of the most advanced AAMs in the world. As a beyond-visual-range missile, it is capable of "lock-on after launch" (LOAL), and has all-aspect/all-direction (including rearward) attack ability. The missile features an advanced electro-optical infrared homing (with imaging infrared) seeker which scans the target area for hostile aircraft, then locks-on for terminal chase.
- Length: 310 cm
- Span: 64 cm
- Diameter: 16 cm
- Weight: 105 kg
- Guidance: infrared homing + electro-optical imaging
- Warhead: 11 kg
- Speed: Mach 4
- Length: 362 cm
- Span: 64 cm
- Diameter: 16 cm
- Weight: 118 kg
- Guidance: Active radar homing
- Warhead: 23 kg
- Speed: Mach 4
During the Russo-Georgian war of 2008, it was believed that Georgia operated the SPYDER-SR. The Georgian air force could have operated up to four launchers of the SPYDER-SR and it is likely that the system was lost in the conflict.
- Georgian Armed Forces – There were reports that a battery of the SPYDER missile system was operated in 2008. No official confirmation exists and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) arms transfer database can't confirm this. Jane's Missiles & Rockets magazine previously cited a Rafael representative claiming that one of the two export customers of the SPYDER missile system already has theirs deployed.
- Indian Air Force – In 2006, India planned to acquire 18 SPYDER-MR systems at a cost of $395.2 million (Rs. 1800 crore) for its air force. The contract was reviewed by the Central Vigilance Commission, the government’s anti-corruption agency, before the agreement was signed in September 2008. In August 2009, the multibillion-dollar contract for Israeli anti-aircraft missiles was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council headed by defence minister AK Antony. Although previous estimates of the contract's value was 18 billion rupees ($395.2 million), recent reports indicate a lower value of $260 million. The Jerusalem Post contradicts these figures and mentions a price of $1 billion for the purchase of the surface-to-air missiles. The SPYDER systems were delivered starting in 2012. Six SPYDER-MRs along with 300 Python-5 surface to air missiles (SAMs) and 300 Derby SAMs were delivered by 2013.
- Peruvian Air Force – In March 2012, Peru chose the winners of a $140 million competition meant to upgrade its ageing air defence systems out of the group of 20 defence companies. Amidst the presence of Russia's Rosoboronexport and Chinese firms, the winners were Poland's Bumar Group, Israel's Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, and the USA's Northrop Grumman. Rafael industries is expected to supply six SPYDER-SR systems in this deal.
- Republic of Singapore Air Force – In 2008, the Ministry of Defence ordered two SPYDER-SR batteries along with 75 Python-5 SAMs and 75 Derby SAMs. They were all delivered throughout 2011 and 2012. Some SPYDER-SRs were operated by the 165 Squadron in 2011.
- In 2015, Vietnam chose the SPYDER missile system as its new short-range air defence missile system.