PAS 2023 – Rafael unveils Sky Sonic, its anti-hypersonic defence solution

Paolo Valpolini

At the Paris Air Show Rafael of Israel unveiled its Sky Sonic missile which will be the core of its defence system aimed at countering the hypersonic threat

The ribbon cutting took place on Day 1 in the presence of the Israel Minister of Defence Yoav Galant and of the company top representatives. The huge missile, its exact length was not revealed but it should be in excess of 6 metres, is a two-stage system, the lower part being the main booster that accelerates it at high speed, no numbers being provided, At a programmed distance/altitude, between 7 and 20 km and that can be updated after launch, the booster it separates from the kill vehicle, which was defined as “the brain of the system” by a company representative.

Rafael was very clear in identifying the hypersonic threat, which is far from being only based on speed, height and manoeuvrability being key considerations. Speeds up to over Mach 20 and height of 70-80 km re being considered, which means operating in the mesosphere where the air is thin and aerodynamic surfaces become pretty inefficient.

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EDR On-Line understood the Sky Sonic kill vehicle maintains a main motor that is used mostly in the last phase of the engagement, while manoeuvrability is provided by moving fins, when the air density allows them to be effective, as well as by some undefined form of lateral thrust. No further details were provided if not that the kill vehicle can manoeuvre “in a very unique way.”

Currently still in the research and development phase, Rafael is willing to step to the full-scale development phase. Rafael says the missile is based on next generation technologies for which the company owns the intellectual property, and is based on a unique concept.

Although most Rafael missiles end up in hitting their targets at interception thanks to accuracy, the company claims, the Sky Sonic is not designed to necessarily kill its target by hitting it, EDR On-Line understood that the interceptor will not try to catch the missile but rather will anticipate it, manoeuvring in order to approach it from the front, which means the intercept can take place head-to-head at speeds well over 5,000 m/s. At that speed should the hit occur the incoming threat will be definitely destroyed, however “we have redundancy” a company source told us letting understand that a sort of proximity fuse would detonate the warhead within lethal range, the system being defined as “very unique and different,” similar words being used for the seeker which is capable to detect and track the threat.

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Rafael provides electro-optic tracking assets, while other, such as radars, will be provided by third parties with which the Haifa-based company has already worked in developing the lower layers interceptors. According to images shown by Rafael, the Sky Sonic will be launched vertically by a multiple cell system.

No exact date was provided for the system deployment, however Rafael counts to have it ready “in a few years” to complement existing air defence systems that keep Israel safe from the many incoming threats, something underlined by Mr. Galant who thanked the company and its scientists and specialists who ensure the country safety.

Images and photo courtesy Rafael and P. Valpolini