Rafael, an Israeli defence firm, on Monday announced it had successfully demonstrated a new “automatic target recognition” capability that relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning for the newest variant of its SPICE family of guided air-to-ground bombs. The Indian Air Force is believed to have used SPICE bombs in its attack on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in February.
SPICE is an acronym for Smart, Precise, Impact and Cost-Effective. The SPICE munitions come in three variants: SPICE-2000, -1000 and -250, with the number denoting the weapon’s weight class in pounds. The SPICE-250, which weighs around 113kg and the newest variant of the SPICE family, was the version tested with artificial intelligence technology by Rafael.
The SPICE-1000 and SPICE-2000 are essentially unguided bombs that have been fitted with a sophisticated guidance system—including inertial navigation, electro-optical seeker and GPS—and tailfins. In contrast, the SPICE-250 is a ‘complete’, tailor-made bomb system that can glide to a range of around 100km.
The Rafael statement on Monday explained that the SPICE-250’s new automatic target recognition capability “is a technological breakthrough, enabling SPICE-250 to effectively learn the specific target characteristics ahead of the strike, using advanced AI and deep-learning technologies”. The new automatic target recognition capability involves the capability to strike moving targets.
Rafael explained that the SPICE-250 bombs loaded on an aircraft are each assigned a target and information about it by the pilot before they are launched. When approaching the target area, the weapons use the automatic target recognition for detection and recognition of the targets. Each weapon homes in on the predefined target, aided by the automatic target recognition software.
In addition to its greater range, the small size of the SPICE-250, which can be equipped with general-purpose or penetration warheads, allows multiple weapons to be carried by a single fighter aircraft, greatly increasing versatility. The small warhead size also reduces collateral damage. A Rafael brochure claimed a single F-16 fighter can carry up to 16 SPICE-250 bombs.
The Indian Air Force is believed to have used the SPICE-2000 in its attack on Balakot in February. Last week, the Indian Air Force signed a deal with Rafael to purchase 100 SPICE-2000 bombs at a cost of approximately Rs 300 crore. The Indian Air Force is reportedly modifying its Su-30MKI fighter to carry the SPICE-2000.
In February 2016, media agencies had claimed India was in negotiations with Israel for a large order of SPICE-250 bombs.