Thursday, January 15, 2015

Changing the Paradigm of Air Power Employment - Ami Rojkes Dombe

by Ami Rojkes Dombe

Rafael developed a new precision-guided glide bomb with a 100 kg warhead under the brand name SPICE-250. Soon in service with IAF

Changing the Paradigm of Air Power Employment
Rafael’s SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost Effective) air-to-surface precision guided glide bomb family has been significantly reinforced recently with the addition of the new SPICE-250. Unlike previous models in this category, which offered a smart conversion kit for Mk-83 and Mk-84 general purpose bombs, the SPICE-250 offers a complete solution with a 250 pound (100 kg) warhead to a range of 100 km. The new bomb is offered with a range of warheads for various missions, such as destroying lightly-fortified bunkers, SSM and SAM batteries, vehicles or radar stations. The SPICE-250 will be showcased for the first time at the Aero India 2015 exhibition.

“The SPICE-250 is a new product in Rafael’s series of air-to-surface glide bombs that revolutionizes the field,” explains Yuval Miller, Rafael’s EVP and Head of the Air & C4ISR Systems Division. “The new munition brings two primary advantages to the series: the ability to handle mobile targets, and the Smart-Quad-Rack feature, which enables an aircraft to carry multiple munitions. An F-16 fighter can carry 16 munitions and an F-15 fighter can carry 28 munitions. This is an actual revolution in this field.”

The era of warfare that combines reduced defense budgets, targets with a short life cycle and a mode of combat that is mainly asymmetrical and involves multiple small targets has presented IAF with contradicting challenges. On the one hand, the number of flight hours must be reduced and new platforms must be acquired. On the other hand, the number of targets is increasing and the timeframe for engaging and killing each target is shrinking. This complexity provides the background against which the advantages of the SPICE-250 stand out.

“In the past, a fighter aircraft had to cover a long distance and eventually release two munitions which did not always hit their targets. Now we have fighter aircraft that can destroy close to 30 targets in a single pass. A formation of four F-15 fighters can carry more than 100 munitions on a mission. This changes the way air power is employed. In fact, we are breaking the paradigm regarding the effectiveness of a sorties,” says Miller.

The only competitors to Rafael’s SPICE-250 are manufactured primarily by US industries, with Raytheon and Boeing developing similar munitions under the brand name Small Diameter Bomb. The people at Rafael are not overly concerned about it. “The only munitions capable of competing with ours are the models the Americans have developed. Our product does it all in a single munition. They need two models to accomplish the same,” concludes Miller.

The SPICE-250, like the other models in the series, operates using an internal navigation mechanism (INS/GPS) and homing using image matching. This capability makes it immune to GPS jamming. This independence of GPS also reduces the margin of error owing to the use of coordinates conveyed to the munition. According to the image matching method, the munition homes on to a pixel – a technology regarded as more accurate. “Owing to the capabilities of the SPICE, it is extremely difficult to jam all of the munitions carried by the aircraft. Add the munition’s accuracy and the fact that it can operate during the day and night and under extreme weather conditions, and you will end up with a highly reliable weapon,” says Miller.

The ability of the SPICE-250 to engage mobile targets is a new world of content for the SPICE series of precision-guided munitions. The targets in question are leap-frogging elements that have a very short life-cycle, on land or at sea. The people at Rafael say that the SPICE-250 is a munition capable of handling the entire target spectrum. “The client knows that he acquires a single munition capable of handling almost any type of target. If effectiveness and budget savings are a consideration, than this is the recommended direction,” explains Miller. “The ability to handle mobile targets is made possible owing to image processing algorithms developed by Rafael and the communication channel the pilot has with the airborne munition, which enables him to update the targets while the munition is in flight.”

The advantages of the SPICE-250 notwithstanding, one should bear in mind the fact that in order to succeed globally, the new munition must be adapted to an extensive range of aircraft models. Unlike air-to-air missiles, the people at Rafael explain that the adaptation of air-to-surface munitions is simpler to accomplish. While an air-to-air missile has to synchronize with the carrying aircraft’s core systems, including synchronization with the pilot’s helmet, with air-to-surface munitions it is simpler.

The people at Rafael were able to tell us that the SPICE-250 is currently undergoing adaptation to F-16 and F-15 fighters in the IAF, and orders from several overseas clients have already been received. Additionally, Rafael is also aiming for the light strike aircraft market.

Ami Rojkes Dombe


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