TEL AVIV — Israel’s state-owned Rafael is expanding its SPICE family of autonomous, jam-resistant, surgical standoff weapons with a new 250-pound missile against fixed and moving targets.
Now in advanced development, the newest version of the company’s Smart, Precision Impact, Cost-Effective (SPICE) weapon — known here as SPICE250 — features the same day-night electro-optical seeker and advanced scene-matching algorithms that allow 1,000-pound and 2,000-pound SPICE missiles to autonomously home in on preplanned targets some 100 kilometers away.
Like the much larger, combat-proven SPICE weapons, the downsized SPICE250 is designed for “one-shot, one-kill” without having to rely on satellite guidance or target coordinates, industry sources here said. The new SPICE250 features advanced data link communications, a multieffect warhead and inherent bomb damage assessment capabilities that optimize the standoff system for strikes against moving targets.
“We believe SPICE250 will be a compelling extension of the SPICE family. It’s a versatile system relevant for all target sets, with the ability to engage a single pixel and nothing else,” said Yuval Miller, Rafael’s director for air-to-surface systems.
Miller said the SPICE250 has the potential to answer operational needs now supported by a combination of munitions, including laser- and GPS-guided standoff penetration weapons.
“It could very well change the way air forces organize their inventory and build their force,” he said.
Miller said the firm already is under contract to supply SPICE250 to the Israel Air Force and is working to expand its portfolio of international customers.
The Rafael executive said the new weapon could be integrated on a variety of platforms, with initial plans focused on F-16Is.
In an interview following the November 2012 Pillar of Defense campaign in Gaza, an Israeli Air Force (IAF) brigadier general said the service aims to enhance its air-to-ground strike arsenal with systems offering greater precision and multimission flexibility.
The officer, head of the air branch on the IAF staff, said the service employed nearly 100 percent precision-guided munitions against 1,400 separate targets during the eight-day Pillar of Defense operation, with success rates “in significant excess of 90 percent.”
The IAF general did not mention SPICE or other specific weapons slated for multiyear funding, but credited local industry for its “intimate knowledge of our current and future operational requirements.”
The Rafael SPICE, particularly the 2,000-pound version, was proven in Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon; the December 2008-January 2009 Cast Lead operation in Gaza; and most recently in the Pillar of Defense anti-rocket war in Gaza.
Israeli defense and industry sources said the SPICE250 would provide a locally made option to requirements now answered by the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) by Chicago-based Boeing or the new SDB II by Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon.
Israel has procured hundreds of the Boeing SDBs for launch against fixed targets from F-15Is.
The Raytheon SDB II is slated for low-rate production later this year and has not yet been offered to foreign customers. In addition to its planned use against moving targets by a broad range of manned fighters and bombers in the U.S. inventory, SDB II has been proposed for launch by the MQ-9 Reaper UAV.
SPICE1000 for JSF
In parallel, Rafael plans to integrate its 1,000-pound SPICE on Israel’s planned fleet of F-35I Joint Strike Fighters (JSF).
The US government has not yet authorized Israel to integrate its own weapons into the F-35’s internal bays, but a defense source in Washington said permission is likely to be codified in negotiations toward a follow-on contract for remaining aircraft.
“There are understandings that could be implemented in follow-on agreements,” a US defense source said. “We understand Israel’s desire to integrate unique weaponry and subsystems [into the F-35] and they understand our concerns, especially regarding the risks involved in making changes to such a highly integrated fifth generation fighter.”
He added that that prospective US permission would likely be limited to JSFs destined for Israel, and probably would preclude Israeli exports of internally carried JSF weaponry and subsystems.
“Our intention is to have the 1,000-pound version actually integrated into the bay,” Miller said. “It will take time, but there is a specific intention by our IAF customers to do this.”
With its 100-kilometer precision standoff capabilities and 1,000-pound warhead, Miller said SPICE1000 offers added value not yet planned for the F-35.
“The IAF is convinced of its added value and is working with the relevant Israeli and US authorities to make it happen,” he said.
According to the website of JSF prime contractor Lockheed Martin, internally carried strike systems now include: 500-, 1,000- and 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions; GBU-12 Paveway IIs, the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), SDBs; and SDB IIs. ■