At AERO India 2021 in Bangalore on 3 February, Rafael unveiled a new variant of the SPICE 250 air-to-surface munition, featuring a new turbojet engine.
SPICE 250 ER (Extended Range) is based on the smallest member of the SPICE family, which includes the SPICE 250, 1000 and 2000 guidance kits. These stand-off, autonomous weapons strike targets with pinpoint accuracy and at high attack volumes, independently of GPS navigation, based on autonomous electro-optic scene-matching AI algorithms.
SPICE 250 ER will incorporate a miniature turbo-jet engine with an internal JP-8/10 fuel system, providing the weapon a range of at least 150km, while retaining the same mission-planning system, aircraft interfaces and aircrew operation. SPICE already 250 uses a common aircraft interface and sophisticated Smart Quad Rack (SQR) – each of which can carry four SPICE 250s, easing aircraft integration. The small, lightweight weapon can be directly mounted on light attack aircraft store stations.
SPICE 250 ER retains the identical external form factor as the gliding variant, using all existing SQR and aircraft interfaces, enabling the same load-out. The new variant also features the same capabilities as the gliding variant, including recently-unveiled Automatic Target Recognition (ATR), Automatic Target Acquisition (ATA) and Moving-Target-Detection capabilities. The ATR feature is a technological breakthrough, enabling SPICE 250 ER to effectively ‘learn’ the specific target characteristics ahead of the strike, using advanced AI and deep-learning technologies.
Before or during flight, target type, location and strike characteristics are defined for each weapon, either through the automated mission-planning or by the pilot. The weapons use their INS for initial navigation then, when approaching the target area, use their ATA and ATR modes for detection, recognition and determination of the precise aim-point. Each weapon homes-in on the pre-defined target, either autonomously or with a human-in-the-loop, aided by the ATR algorithm.
The combination of the increased loadout of SPICE 250 variants, the unique homing methods for multiple scenarios, and the extended range, enable a high-volume, autonomous, precision strike capability against multiple target types, with assured very low collateral damage and in a cost-effective manner.
"SPICE is combat-proven, with outstanding operational benefits and achievements. This future capability will offer users the unique combination of a combat-proven system with unparalleled state-of-the-art technologies, while taking advantage of existing infrastructure, without the need for new integration. The significantly-enhanced stand-off range will enable pilots [to achieve] greater operational manoeuvrability, safety and mission assurance,” commented Alon Shlomi, Head of Rafael’s Air-to-Surface Systems Directorate.