Korean F-16s Upgraded To Carry Israeli Weapon

 - November 7, 2017, 11:04 AM
A Korean F-16D, some of which have been upgraded to carry precision weapons such as (inset) the Rafael Spice glide bomb. (Photos: Chris Pocock and KForce News)

The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has performed numerous live drops of the Rafael Spice 2,000-pound guided glide bomb this year, suggesting that the weapon is fully certified on its F-16 fleet. The Israeli company does not discuss customers, but reports indicate that Seoul signed a deal with Rafael in late 2015, with deliveries due in the second half of 2016.

The weapon was seen in a quick-response exercise mounted by the ROKAF’s 19th Fighter Squadron in February this year. The unit employed both the Spice 2000 and the Boeing GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) on the Peace Bridge Upgrade (PBU) version of its Lockheed Martin F-16s. The PBUs are a group of 40 F-16C/D Block 32s that underwent an upgrade to employ JDAM, AIM-120 AMRAAM, plus installation of data modems and secure communications. This brought them up to the license-built KF-16 standards. The first F-16PBU was combat-ready in mid-2016.

“We have been doing our best to master the new armed capability with the F-16 PBU and Spice 2000,” a ROKAF pilot told Korean media. The Spice family deploys pop-out wings after launch and employs GPS/INS for midcourse navigation. When approaching the target, Spice employs a scene-matching algorithm that Rafael claims to be unique and compares the electro-optical image received in real time via the weapon seeker with mission reference intelligence data stored in the aircraft’s weapon computer memory. The Spice 2000 gives the Korean F-16s standoff and precision capabilities of approximately 60 km on Mk 84 2,000-pound bombs.

 India has acquired the longer-range Spice 250 and Spice 1000 weapons, reportedly for their Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi Su-30 fighters.

Additional reporting by Chris Pocock