Key point: Israel's fighter jets are already the best in the Middle East.
Israel will soon have a new precision-guided supersonic stand-off missile for its F-35s and other fighter jets.
The new missile was announced on June 11, 2018 in a press release by two leading Israeli defense firms, Israeli Military Industries Systems (IMI Systems) and Israel Aerospace Industries, which jointly developed the missile. The so-called Rampage missile is a precision-guided air-launched stand-off missile with a range of about 90 miles (145 kilometers). With a length of 4.7 meters, the Rampage weighs 570 kilograms. According to press reports, it will carry a warhead of around 150 kilograms.
“The Rampage features optimal penetration capability into protected areas,” the companies said in the press release. “The targets that best fit the capabilities of the new rocket include communication and command centers, air forces bases, maintenance centers, infrastructures and valuable field targets protected by anti-air systems.” Its ability to penetrate difficult targets appears to come from a combination of different characteristics. As IHS Jane’s explains, these include the missile’s speed as well as its ability to be programmed to fly at different trajectories that confuse air defense systems, especially if the defense systems have to grapple with numerous different missiles.
Meanwhile, the Rampage's ability to destroy specific targets is not merely due to the size of its warhead but also its accuracy. Although the companies didn't say exactly how accurate the missile is—one report said it is measured in centimeters—they did reveal that it uses a GPS system. Moreover, the Rampage will feature a backup algorithm-based navigation system in case adversaries jam or disrupt the missile's GPS. Furthermore, according to YNet News, an Israeli news outlet, the missile will have two different warheads, “with the first one designed for penetrating armor protected targets such as bunkers and those immune to shrapnel damage.“
The Drive notes that Rampage is a modified version of Israeli Military Industries Systems’ ground-launched Extended Range Artillery (EXTRA) guided artillery rocket. “There appear to be only minimal changes to the weapon’s external design for the air-launched role, namely the addition of a reinforced section of the central body with the attachment lugs,” Joseph Trevithick wrote in The Drive. Among the other similarities with EXTRA is Rampage’s range and the use of the GPS-assisted inertial navigation system. Trevithick also points out that Russia recently created an air-launched version of its Iskander ground-based missile, which it calls the Kinzhal. Thus, he wonders if this is “the start of a trend of converting established guided rocket artillery and similar systems into lower-cost stand-off weapons for aircraft.”
The Rampage missile has already been tested over the past year in conjunction with the Israeli Air Force (IAF). Although it will reportedly undergo further testing, the missile is expected to enter into production shortly, and possibly be ready as early as next year. While it is a near certainty that the IAF will purchase the missile, Israeli Military Industries Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries are clearly hoping to attract interest from foreign military services. Eli Reiter, a manager at IMI Systems, said in the press release that "Rampage complements the air response with a quantum leap in performance and extraordinary cost-effectiveness ratio, two factors which are important to many air forces around the world." The companies were especially keen to note how competitive the missile is from a cost standpoint, claiming that it only costs about a third of what missiles with similar capabilities are priced at. The companies also built the missile so that it will be able to fit on the broadest range of aircraft around the world.
Finally, the missile appears to be perfect for the Israeli Air Force as that service has increasingly relied on standoff missiles to attack targets in places like Syria. One example is the Delilah cruise missile that has evolved over the years to become one of Israel’s most trusted stand-off weapons. That missile was also developed by IMI Systems and can hit moving targets with an accuracy of one meter (circular error probable) at a range of 250 kilometers. One of the Delilah missile’s most attractive capabilities is that it can loiter and be redirected mid-flight. Israel also developed the Popeye stand-off air-launched cruise missile that many other countries (including, previously, the United States Air Force) have purchased.
Zachary Keck (@ZacharyKeck) is a former managing editor of the National Interest. This first appeared several years ago and is being republished due to reader interest.