By ARIE EGOZI
Tel Aviv: Lockheed Martin and Israeli company Rafael will jointly develop advanced weapon systems for its fighter aircraft mainly the F-35. The agreement was signed after Lockheed Martin realized that some of the Israeli company’s weapon systems are in growing demand among F-35 users.
Poland that has signed an agreement to purchase the F-35 has requested to include the Spice -250 in the deal.
Earlier this week, Lockheed Martin and Rafael signed an expanded teaming agreement, allowing the team to jointly develop, market, manufacture and support Rafael’s SPICE 250 weapon system for sale in the United States and in Poland. This agreement marks the first time SPICE 250 is available for sale to the US military.
The addition of SPICE 250 builds on a 2019 teaming agreement, where Lockheed Martin and Rafael agreed to jointly market SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000 guidance kits for US sale.
Spice is a family of stand-off, autonomous, air-to-surface weapon systems that provide affordable precision in a GPS-denied environment. The combat-proven SPICE family of products includes two guidance kits, SPICE 1000 and SPICE 2000, as well as an all-up round, known as SPICE 250.
“Lockheed Martin’s deep expertise in weapon system integration will help us adapt SPICE 250 to meet U.S. standards,” said Dave Pantano, Lockheed Martin program director. “We’re excited to leverage this experience and offer this unique, proven weapon system to aircraft operators for additional mission flexibility where it’s needed most.”
“GPS is not required to operate any of the products within the SPICE family, allowing for operations in a variety of locations and adverse environments,” said Alon Shlomi, Rafael Air to Surface Directorate vice president. “By expanding our teaming agreement with Lockheed Martin, we’re able to offer the entire product portfolio to the US military – providing war fighters with the opportunity to enhance mission flexibility.”
The very advanced Spice-250 standoff weapon is in use by the Israeli air force and according to foreign media is one of the main tools of the Israeli campaign against the Iranian effort to supply advanced Iranian rockets to the Hezbollah in Lebanon. In earlier years before the Spice -250 has become operational with the Israeli airforce only the Spice 1000 and Spice 2000 (iron bombs with a guidance kit) have been used in airstrikes.
SPICE-250 has a standoff range of 62 miles, and can be equipped with either general purpose or penetration 75kg class warhead.
According to Rafael the Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) is only one of the SPICE-250’s array of technologies which includes Automatic Target Acquisition (ATA) and Moving-Target- Detection homing modes, all of which are based on autonomous electro-optic Scene-Matching Algorithms.
“A specific target like a moving vehicle, can be put into the special algorithm and it will look for the matching pixels and bring the weapon system to hit it with absolute accuracy “, a company source said. He added that the special algorithm builds a 3 dimension image of the specific target.
The ATR feature is a technological breakthrough, enabling SPICE-250 to effectively learn the specific target characteristics ahead of the strike, using advanced AI and deep-learning technologies.
During flight, the pilot selects the target type to be attacked and allocates a target to each weapon. The weapons are launched towards the vicinity of the targets, using their INS for initial navigation. When approaching the target area, the weapons use the ATR mode for detection and recognition of the targets. Each weapon homes in on the pre-defined target, either autonomously or with a human-in-the-loop, aided by the ATR algorithm.
According to Rafael, the combination of the increased loadout of SPICE-250, the unique homing methods for various scenarios, and the effective 75 KGS warhead, enables a high volume, autonomous and precise strike capability against multiple target types, with an assured very low collateral damage.
SPICE-250 uses a common aircraft interface and sophisticated Smart Quad Rack (SQR) which simplifies the effort needed for aircraft integration. Four SPICE-250 weapons are carried on each SQR. SPICE-250 can be directly mounted on light attack aircraft store stations, thanks to its small size and lightweight.