British Army Used Israeli Tamuz Missiles in Iraq, Afghanistan Campaigns

Israel first sold guided missiles to U.K. from its emergency stock in 2007, even repainting APCs to which missiles were still mounted.

Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer
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A Tamuz missile fired by the IDF last year.
A Tamuz missile fired by the IDF last year. Credit: Ilan Assayag
Anshel Pfeffer
Anshel Pfeffer

Israel provided the British army with Tamuz missiles from its emergency stock, starting in 2007, to assist the British in fighting Al-Qaida and Taliban squads in Iraq and Afghanistan. Following their satisfactory deployment, the British ordered more from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The tamuz guided missiles, from Rafael's "Spike" family of missiles, were used after the British found they had no available solution to quickly strike small, mobile enemy targets in the two war zones. According to military journal Jane’s Defence Weekly, the British army purchased the missiles to deal with Taliban cells laying explosive charges and mortars that were threatening British patrols in the Basra area of Iraq and Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

The Tamuz was developed by Israel in the mid-1970s, initially as a result of lessons drawn from the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Their aim was to hit large armored columns from the Egyptian and Syrian armies. Over the years, it became a weapon that could be used to hit terrorist targets from afar.

The first Tamuz missiles purchased by the British were taken from IDF emergency stocks, out of Israel’s desire to help an ally, while still mounted on 14 IDF armored personnel carriers that were then repainted. British satisfaction with the missile, which U.K. authorities dubbed the Exactor, led to an additional order and the opening of a new Rafael missile production line. Even since the British withdrew from Afghanistan last year, the Tamuz has continued to constitute part of the British army’s sophisticated artillery, used in conjunction with Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 drone (called Watchkeeper 450 in the British army).

Over the past two years, delegations of British army artillery corps officers have been visiting Israel every few weeks for training on Israel's combat doctrine, and what the IDF calls “closing the circle of fire” – in which the Hermes 450 “acquires” its targets and transmits data to the operators of the Tamuz missiles, which are then fired to destroy the target. The assessment in Britain is that if the decision is made to expand military action against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or to station ground forces in the area (most likely in Kurdish regions), the Israeli systems would also be deployed there. Up to now, the British government has refrained from publicly releasing any information about the deployment of the Tamuz missile among its forces.

Another Israeli system already being used by the British in assaults against ISIS is outfitted on old Tornado bombers produced in the 1970s and ’80s. These serve the British in their aerial campaign against ISIS in Iraq. The Tornados are equipped with Rafael’s Litening targeting pods, without which the aircraft’s crew would be unable to identify targets while in flight and attack the targets with advanced missiles.

Two years ago, the British parliament voted against a proposal put forward by the government of Prime Minister David Cameron to allow attacks on targets belonging the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, following the use of chemical weapons against civilians in the suburbs of Damascus. However, two weeks ago, Cameron announced in parliament that a British drone had attacked a target in Syria and killed two senior Islamic State figures who held British citizenship and had planned terrorist attacks in Britain. The drone attack was carried out by a U.S.-made Predator aircraft, but the British army is also receiving Israeli weapons systems that allow attacks on terrorist targets from a distance.

The Tamuz was still classified in 2007 when it was first ordered by the British, and was only officially disclosed by the IDF four years ago. Its first significant operational use was in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when about 500 Tamuz missiles were fired at Hezbollah targets. A current use of the Tamuz is for attacks on Syrian targets from where fire has been directed at the Golan Heights.

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