After a decade of asymmetric warfare against low-intensity opponents, Western air forces begin to increase their capabilities against near-peer adversaries, demanding more advanced capabilities.

Facing growing threats means new, advanced air defense capabilities, modern fighter planes and smarter and more agile sensors and missiles. While many air powers field fifth-generation fighters, they also maintain their current fleets of combat aircraft, which must be upgraded to align with the new capabilities. Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (Static Display A8) offers the weapon systems, avionics and ISR capabilities that enable such planes to meet these goals to achieve superior qualitative military edge (QME).

“Our systems enable existing aircraft to obtain updated intelligence, cooperate better and strike with utmost precision, well beyond the enemy’s reach,” said Yuval Miller, Rafael’s executive vice president and general manager, of the company’s air and C4ISR systems division.

According to Miller, these systems include new generations of targeting and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, comprehensive communications networks and data links, an enhanced family of standoff, guided munitions and the latest families of air-to-air missiles.

“Unveiled here at the last Paris Air Show two years ago, Lightning 5 is the latest version of our Litening targeting pod that introduces revolutionary capabilities in both air-to-surface and air-to-air warfare.” Miller said. The pod’s capabilities are measured in electro-optical performance, which are five times better than Litening 3, enabling pilots to acquire targets and engage them from a range well beyond 100 km [62 mi.]. “Beyond targeting, these pods are capable of air-to-ground missions with ISR and BDA, and support air-to-air missions well beyond visual range. In fact, even aircraft equipped with integral infrared search and track sensors will benefit from Litening 5 air-to-air capabilities such as target identification and recognition,” he explained.

Rafael’s Reccelite XR represents the latest reconnaissance pod variant. Previous versions were used primarily for stand-in missions. According to Miller, thanks to the XR’s superior optics and sensors, Reccelite XR can fulfill almost 80% of the standoff missions performed with long-range optical sensors (LOROS). In addition, it offers the mission flexibility and persistence required for persistent wide area surveillance (PWAS) missions, which are critical capabilities for asymmetric warfare. These missions are performed either by combat aircraft or unmanned platforms.

Rafael’s Spice family of smart, guided aerial weapons continues to expand, and now includes the 2,000-, 1,000- and 250-lb. variants. The Spice 250 introduces another revolution, as it allows an existing fleet of aircraft to quadruple its strike capacity. This new weapon is designed to defeat soft and hard targets in stationary or moving profile, on land and at sea. The system employs the Spice’s traditional scene-matching guidance technology, enhanced with special algorithms and communications to receive updates and acquire moving, relocatable or naval targets. This guidance system is immune to countermeasures such as GPS jamming, providing significant increase in aircraft load-out on such traditional platforms as the F-16 and F-15.

“Last year, we completed an important test series and will soon complete another series, toward initial deliveries of operational weapons next year,” Miller added.

Rafael’s latest air-to-air missiles are designed to enable air forces to meet modern threats posed by adversary air power. The I-Derby ER beyond-visual-range missile is the newest interceptor introduced by Rafael for air-to-air and surface-to-air missions. This variant of the Derby is equipped with a new digital, software-programmable active-RF seeker with sophisticated electronic counter-countermeasure (ECCM) capabilities and advanced multi-pulse rocket propulsion extending its range well beyond 62 mi. while maintaining high kinematic efficiency at the terminal phase.

The advanced capabilities introduced by Litening 5 and Spice are equally important to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), but the integration of such systems on a fifth-generation platform is not a simple task. “We are convinced that the operational needs will bring our systems to those platforms,” commented Miller. “The F-35 is highly advanced and impressive and the integration of our systems will enable it to maintain its qualitative advantage in the Middle East theater.”