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Paper – Spike Non-Line of Sight Missile System: Restoring Operational Manoeuvre to the Modern Battlefield

This paper by Judd Finger titled ‘The Spike Non-Line of Sight (NLOS) Missile System: Restoring Operational Manoeuvre to the Modern Battlefield’ proposes that by redefining the current offensive support paradigm and equipping manoeuvre forces with Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) technology such as the Spike NLOS, the Australian Army can enable extended range Command & Control (C2) – Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) – Strike networks, facilitate distributed operations, and restore operational manoeuvre to the battlefield.

The author suggests that technological growth and the proliferation of affordable military technologies continue to degrade the asymmetric superiority once enjoyed by western militaries. Persistent battlefield surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicles, massed fires, and long-range missiles significantly threaten the Australian Army’s traditional operational advantages. So how can the Army restore operational manoeuvre on the modern battlefield? Moreover, are there any current or future technologies that can assist land forces in regaining an asymmetric technical advantage?

A leading military concept in restoring land manoeuvre is Distributed Operations, centred on lethal combined arms teams that manoeuvre independently, avoid massed fires, and concentrate at decisive points. Judd Finger indicates that the problem is that while this is necessary to counter enemy targeting, small force disaggregation significantly increases the risk of isolation and destruction. Combat elements can no longer provide direct fire mutual support once dispersed and rely heavily on offensive fires to support isolated elements. To overcome these issues, Distributed Operations rely on the integration of C2, ISR, and strike networks to facilitate manoeuvre over extended ranges. However, while the Army has invested significantly in capable C2 and ISR systems, land manoeuvre forces do not possess the integral NLOS lethality to strike at extensive ranges, enable mutual support, and facilitate concentration.

He proposes that the time has come for the Army to exploit the full potential of PGM technologies to allow distributed forces to strike at extended ranges, mass fires from across the manoeuvre force, and facilitate operational manoeuvre. One such opportunity is the highly lethal Spike NLOS system, a long-range anti-tank missile capable of destroying targets over twenty-five kilometres. While the Australian Army has traditionally viewed NLOS missiles as the domain of offensive fires, the highly versatile Spike provides a potent deep fire capability that can be used by manoeuvre elements, negating the reliance on offensive fires.

Read the attached paper in more detail and share your thoughts on whether you agree with the authors conclusions about whether the Australian Army should pursue this technology to reap the benefits of land-to-land missile technology in order to regain a technical asymmetric advantage on the future battlefield.


About the Author:

Judd Finger is an infantry officer with over 15 years military experience within the Australian Army. He is a distinguished graduate of the United States Marine Command and Staff College and School of Advanced Warfighting and is currently posted to the Future Land Warfare Branch within Army Headquarters.

2 thoughts on “Paper – Spike Non-Line of Sight Missile System: Restoring Operational Manoeuvre to the Modern Battlefield

  1. My feeling is that this paper leaps directly to a solution without really defining the capability requirement or discussing alternative solutions. I agree that distributed combat capability needs remote targeting and engagement, probably with a higher degree of autonomy and data fusion than that defined in this paper. Any system like but not necessarily Spike cannot be discussed in isolation from other offensive and defensive systems, if for no other reason that to define Spike’s place in the bigger scheme of things.

    Some things we carefully tap-dance around when discussing high-tech solutions to tactical and operational challenges are the cost of the system, in practical terms, how many are actually sitting on the shelf, how long can we sustain their use, and what happens when they run out, many of these system not have massive rates of production. Also needing to be discussed is countering counter-measures, especially with any system that relies on remote input, and even more so in a peer v peer conflict i.e. when the ‘other guy’ might be as good as or possibly, Lord forbid, better than us. That is a situation that we down under have not seriously faced on a large scale since the Second World War.

    Spike is without doubt a good weapon system. Is it the only answer? Unlikely. If we’re going to adapt back in to the harsh world of peer v peer conflict, we need to first define better define that operating environment. After two and a half decades (dating back to the end of Cold War) of irregular warfare, we need to have these conversations but we need to keep our options open and avoid fixation on specific solutions.

    1. I think this is useful article because it raises the way PGM technology is finally changing land battlefield dynamics which in some senses haven’t changed since WW2.

      The Zelenopillya Grad rocket attack example appears to one where detection by UAV was the novel element. Distributed operations make sense in response to conventional artillery or artillery rockets.

      But what happens with peer to peer encounters with both equipped with PGMs? The author seems to assume we have them and the enemy doesn’t. Of course, having better C2/ISR and ‘strike networks’ would help in the case of parity. But I fear we may need a new world of fast moving counter measures, decision-making and tactics to avoid PGM attrition battles.

      The comment about cost is well made. I don’t know the details, but I’m guessing that artillery and mortar rounds cost a tiny fraction of Spike NLOS rockets. I can’t imagine we’d deploy and use them on the scale envisaged in the article. We would have to do as much as we could with artillery (difficult as that is without SP) and mortars (which must be well-integrated at the lowest level).

      However, I think the time has come that PGMs like Spike NLOS are the price of venturing onto the conventional battlefield.

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