When cost effectiveness is the name of the game, it seems that Israel Military Industries is investing in a winning niche.
The company recently unveiled its MARS supersonic precision rocket as a low-cost solution for a variety of missions.
According to IMI, the 4.4m (14.4ft) rocket, with an estimated range of 54nm (100km) and a GPS navigational system, is a fire-and-forget weapons system for use against mobile and stationary targets, including those protected by anti-aircraft systems. MARS weighs 500kg (1,100lb).
IMI says the new rocket is a good solution for destroying radar sites, communications centres, weapons storage facilities and airfields while the launch aircraft remains out of range of air defence systems.
IMI’s Advanced Systems Division has been developing MARS for several years and it intends to customise it for operation from a variety of platforms, including the Boeing F-15, F-16 and F/A-18, the Sukhoi Su-24, Su-25, Su-27 and Su-30, the Mig-29, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir.
The company says MARS is the basis for a “family” of relatively simple, accurate weapons systems that many air forces will be able to afford.
Shmulik Geller, marketing director of IMI’s Advanced Systems Division, explains that MARS can be carried on many types of aircraft and uses the basic armament hard points. “As the target data is pre-loaded before take-off, the interface with the aircraft is very simple,” he adds.
The MARS booster ignites after the rocket is released from the aircraft’s wing. “We designed the rocket to be very simple to operate but still very effective,” says Geller.
An F-15 or Su-30-sized aircraft can carry six to eight MARS missiles. “The long range of the rocket allows the aircraft to carry less fuel and that enables it to carry a greater load of these rockets,” says Geller.
He adds that MARS has a circular error probable of 10m and that in most cases, this is sufficient.
So IMI is responding to a market need. When a growing number of air forces cannot afford to acquire the most advanced air-surface weapon systems that can “go through a window”, MARS and other members of the family may offer a very reasonable solution.