Air Weapons: Israeli Smart Spice


June 22, 2013: Israel has introduced a competitor for the American SDB (Small Diameter Bomb). The Israeli Spice 250 is a 113 kg (249 pound) bomb that, like the SDB, looks like a missile and has pop-out wings. What makes the Spice 250 different is its lack of a penetration warhead and the addition of an image recognition guidance system capability. The GPS can get Spice 250 close enough for the imaging sensor to detect one of the (up to 100) shapes in its memory and go after it. SDB and Spice 250 are both basically unpowered missiles, which can glide long distances. This makes both of them even more compact, capable, and expensive.

Israel has bought several thousand of the American 127 kg (280 pound) SDBs, no doubt for its penetration capability. SDB and Spice 250 both have a shape more like that of a missile than a bomb (SDB is 1.8 meter/71 inches long, 190 millimeters in diameter), with the guidance system built in. Both bombs use pop-out wings that provide glide range of about a hundred kilometers.

In some ways, however, Spice 250 is more similar to the U.S. 250 pound (113 kg) unguided bomb. This bomb is used with a new Paveway laser guidance kit, which turns the Mark 81 250 pound bomb into the GBU-58 smart bomb. France was the first to buy and use the GBU-58, mainly because this 113 kg bomb only has 44 kg (96 pounds) of explosives. That's less than half what is contained in the 500 pound (127 kg) bomb. The GBU-58 is also half the price of the other U.S. 250 pound (actually 285 pound/129 kg) SDB bomb, which costs about $77,000 each. The SDB has only 17 kg (38 pounds) of explosives, but also is designed to penetrate 2.4 meters (8 feet) of concrete. France and many other air forces believe that the old 250 pound dumb bombs, with a laser guidance kit, make more economic sense. You don't always need the special abilities of the SDB, just accuracy and a smaller bang. Israel has a line of unguided bombs that have a streamlined shape. They are not much more expensive than older dumb bomb designs but glide farther when they are equipped with a Spice smart bomb kit.

SDB and Spice 250 are carried on a special carriage, which holds four of them. The carriage is mounted on a bomber just like a single larger (500, 1,000, or 2,000) pound bomb would be. This allows each fighter-bomber to take out up to four times as many targets per sortie.

It was five years ago that an Israeli firm developed a variation on the JDAM called SPICE (Stand-Off Precision Guidance Munition). SPICE adds a camera in the nose, where you can store several digital photos of the target (a building, radar antennae, or a moving target, like a missile transporter). When SPICE gets close enough to see what's down there, its guidance camera compares what it sees in front of it with what is stored in its memory. If it gets a match it heads right for it. If no target can be found SPICE hits a specific GPS location or just self-destructs. Larger (than 113 kg) SPICE equipped bombs can be dropped up to 60 kilometers from the target. SPICE costs about twice as much as JDAM kits and is similar to earlier (pre-JDAM), and much more expensive, U.S. smart bomb designs.

Israel prefers to buy JDAM, mainly because of the lower cost and partly because Israel gets over a billion dollars-worth of military aid each year, and most of it must be spent on American made ammo, equipment, or weapons.





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