Here at Le Bourget, Rafael is launching the latest member of its Spice (smart, precise impact, cost-effective) family of precision-guided glide bombs, the Spice 250. The company’s Spice 1000 and 2000 have now been in service for some time with several customers, and they are combat-proven. These Spice variants comprise guidance and wing kits that are applied to standard Mk 83 1,000-pound and Mk 84 2,000-pound warheads, the wings giving them a range of around 60 km for the Spice 2000 and 100 km for the Spice 2000.
For the last two or three years Rafael has been developing a smaller, more capable and more flexible weapon, in answer to requirements from the Israeli ministry of defense (IMOD) and based on growing demands from the wider export market. Spice 250 not only is smaller, at 250 pounds, but also introduces a range of new capabilities. “It’s not a linear upgrade, it’s a leap in capability,” said Yuval M., Rafael’s v-p and general manager of Air & C4ISR systems, speaking to AIN on the eve of the show. “It makes each mission much more efficient, and we have also invested a lot of effort to make it more affordable for the customer.”
Spice 250 introduces a host of new capabilities, not least of which is a new guidance system that allows it to attack moving and time-critical targets, both on land and at sea. The CCD/imaging infrared seeker is based on technology matured in the larger Spice weapons, which were only capable of attacking fixed targets, but incorporates a two-way datalink and advanced automatic scene-matching and target recognition algorithms to provide accuracy of better than 3 meters.
Although Spice 250 can be carried singly from a standard pylon, Rafael has created a four-round Smart Quad Rack, which carries pairs of glide bombs fore and aft. The SQR can be fitted to any Mil Std 1760-compatible pylon with standard 30-inch lug spacing, and allows an F-15 to carry a theoretical maximum of 28 Spice 250s, or 16 for the F-16. The system allows for multiple launches against multiple targets.
Within the SQR is a computer that connects to the aircraft’s central systems, but incorporates the weapons interfaces within, so that the weapon requires very little integration for fitment to 1760-compatible aircraft. The SQR also contains the datalink system, freeing up a pylon that might otherwise be needed for a dedicated datalink pod.
At the time of launch the weapon is fed accurate positional data from the aircraft’s navigation system, and then uses GPS and inertial midcourse guidance to navigate to the target area. In the target vicinity the weapon begins its search for its aim point by comparing the scene with mission-referenced data in the weapon’s computer memory. With the target location identified, the weapon attacks using a predefined impact angle and azimuth.
Thanks to the datalink, the launch aircraft can provide updated target information to the weapon during its fly-out, while the transmission of seeker imagery back from the weapon just before it hits the target provides a useful battle damage indication function. The datalink also allows the aircraft crew to monitor the weapon’s attack, and transmit an abort command if required. Combined with the precision of the attack and the smaller size of the warhead compared to earlier Spice weapons, the abort function reduces the risk of collateral damage effects.
While the Spice 1000 and 2000 employed standard Mk 80-series warheads, the Spice 250 has an all-new 200-pound warhead, which has been designed and tuned to give high lethality in a localized area. There are two warhead options available: a multi-purpose warhead and another with penetration capabilities.
When launched from around 40,000 feet the glide bomb has a range of around 100 km. Rafael has no immediate intention of increasing that range through the addition of a motor. “We are not trying to compete with cruise missiles,” explained Yuval. “One hundred kilometers of standoff keeps you outside 99 percent of modern air defenses, and you don’t pay the price in cost or weight of a cruise missile.”
Currently Spice 250 is not only in development, but also under a procurement program for the IMOD. Although the details of its status are not being revealed, Yuval remarked that, “in the near future it will be operational.” It is also now available for export. o