The Popeye Turbo cruise missile is considered “death from the air” by the Israeli Air Force.

Popeye Turbo has been regularly used by Israeli fighters to attack Syrian and Palestinian ground targets, causing heavy damage to the enemy.

Popeye is the name of a “family” of air-to-surface missiles developed by the Israeli company Rafael for the country’s air force and for export. In addition to the aerial version, the Popeye missile also has a submarine-launched variant. Popeye was developed by Israel on the basis of the American AGM-142 Raptor medium-range air-to-surface missile. The American version is designed to be deployed mainly from B-52H bombers with a range of about 90 km, equipped with TV or infrared guidance technology.

The standard Popeye air-to-surface missile has a weight of 1.36 tons, a length of 4.82 m, a diameter of 533 mm, equipped with a 340 kg fragmentation warhead or a 360 kg I-800 penetrator warhead, with firing range is 78 km. Meanwhile, Popeye Turbo is an extended-range version of this air-to-ground cruise missile. It uses a liquid fuel engine, length increased to 6.25 m and range up to over 320 km.

The old version of the Popeye missile uses an inertial navigation system, pilots the missile towards the target; for terminal homing the pilot can control the missile directly via an INS and data link, aiming via either a television or imaging infrared seeker depending on the missile model. It is not necessary for the launching aircraft to direct the missile—control can be passed to another platform while the firing aircraft escapes the area.

Initially, Popeye was only deployed from F-15 aircraft due to its large size. Rafael then developed a compact Popeye Lite version for deployment from the F-16I Sufa. Compared to the light cruise missile Delilah, Popeye Turbo is much more dangerous as it has extremely large destructive power, enough to destroy bunkers and underground tunnels… something Delilah cannot do. More importantly, the submarine-launched cruise missile variant is reported to be jet powered and nuclear armed with a greatly increased range, making it an extremely formidable deterrent tool for the Israeli defense forces.

The Popeye is compatible with a variety of aircraft from tactical fighters to heavy bombers. Since their inception, the missiles have gone through a variety of improvement programs designed to increase reliability and reduce costs. These efforts have included changes in the materials and manufacturing processes of the wings, fins and rocket motor, new components in the inertial guidance unit, an upgraded processor, and an improved imaging infrared seeker.

Through the times it was used to attack targets in Syria, Popeye missile versions showed that it was “immune” to Damascus’s dense and extremely modern air defense system. Realizing the benefits of this weapon, Turkey, India, and South Korea have purchased Israeli-made versions of Popeye missiles to equip their F-15K, F-4E, or Mirage 2000 fighters.

There is currently information that the Israeli defense industry is researching a deep upgrade of the Popeye Turbo cruise missile, which focuses on improving stealth through the use of new radar-absorbing materials. Not only that, the guidance mechanism of the upgraded Popeye Turbo missile will also be significantly improved, not even excluding the ability to attack moving targets at high speed.


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