The Israeli SPICE 2000 stand-off glide bomb hit the limelight when the Indian Air Force targeted the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp in Balakot in February 2019. Now, the Indian Air Force has been offered a smaller, but lethal, cousin of the SPICE 2000.
On February 26, 2019, six Mirage 2000 jets penetrated into Pakistan airspace, armed with SPICE 2000 bombs, popularly known as 'Building Blaster'. Scores of militants were reportedly killed in the action that was India's retaliation to the Pulwama attack.
And soon after the Balakot strike, India ordered more SPICE 2000 bombs to boost the IAF's firepower.
Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd, the manufacturer of SPICE, has unveiled a new member of the air-to-surface munition family, with the addition of an integrated turbojet engine at the Aero India exhibition in Bengaluru. And if Rafael officials are to be believed, they are ready to offer the SPICE 250ER (Extended Range) to the IAF, which is currently using the Spice 2000 version.
SPICE is a family of stand-off, autonomous, air-to-surface weapon systems that strikes targets with pinpoint accuracy and at high attack volumes, independently of GPS navigation, based on their autonomous electro-optic scene-matching artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.
As per details given by its manufacturer, SPICE 250ER will incorporate a miniature turbojet engine with an internal JP-8/10 fuel system, providing the weapon a range of at least 150km, while retaining the same mission-planning system, aircraft interfaces and aircrew operation.
The SPICE 250 uses a common aircraft interface and sophisticated smart quad rack (SQR), which simplifies the effort needed for aircraft integration. Four SPICE 250 weapons are carried on each SQR. SPICE 250 can be directly mounted on light attack aircraft store stations, thanks to its small size and light weight.
The SPICE 250ER retains the identical external form factor as the gliding variant, using all existing SQR and aircraft interfaces, enabling the same load-out.
"The extended-range variant also features the same capabilities as the gliding variant, including the recently-unveiled ATR (automatic target recognition) capability, automatic target acquisition (ATA) and moving target-detection homing modes," an executive of Rafael said, while adding that the newly-unveiled ATR feature is a technological breakthrough, enabling SPICE 250ER to effectively learn the specific target characteristics ahead of the strike, using advanced AI and deep-learning technologies.
Explaining it in more detail, the manufacturer claimed that before or during flight, target type, location and strike characteristics are defined for each weapon, either by the automated mission planning or by the pilot.
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"The weapons fly towards the targets, using their INS for initial navigation," they claimed
The combination of the increased load-out of SPICE 250 variants, the unique homing methods for various scenarios and the extended range, enable a high-volume, autonomous, precision-strike capability against multiple target types, with assured very-low collateral damage and at a cost-effective price point.
While claiming that SPICE is combat proven and in operational service with a number of international customers, Alon Shlomi, VP, head of Rafael's Air-to-Surface systems directorate, said "This future capability will offer users the unique combination of a combat-proven system with unparalleled state-of-the-art technologies, while taking advantage of existing infrastructure, without the need for new integration. The significantly enhanced stand-off range will enable pilots greater operational manoeuvrability, safety and mission assurance."