Weapons: SPICE Versus Islamic Terrorists


July 29, 2020: In July 2020 India ordered more (number unspecified) Israeli SPICE (Stand-Off Precision Guidance Munition) 2000 smart bombs, for about $420,000 each. The new batch of SPICE bombs was ordered, like the similar 2019 order, using the EPP (Emergency Purchasing Powers) of the Defense Ministry. These emergency powers enable to Defense Ministry to order $67 million worth of weapons or equipment without parliamentary approval. The $67 million limit is for each purchase. The 2019 SPICE 2000 purchase cost $42 million. Parliament allowed EPP to save itself a lot of political problems by buying essential military equipment that the troops definitely needed. Such purchases, especially if the item had to be imported, create a lot of political opposition and delay. Imported items are the most difficult because that causes many politicians to insist that the item be procured in India, even it if that would take years and even then, the Indian manufacturer would probably deliver something inferior to the foreign alternative.

In this case, using EEP to get more smart bombs of proven worth also serves to show the enemy that Indian is doing something decisive. SPICE 2000 is certainly decisive. So much so that back in June 2019 a similar emergency order of a hundred SPICE 2000 bombs was made. That 2019 order was seen as final confirmation that the SPICE 2000 bombs were successful after being used for the February 26 2019 Indian airstrike on the Pakistani Balakot base. The target was the main Islamic terrorist training site in Pakistani Kashmir. India used its Mirage 2000 fighter-bombers, carrying six SPICE bombs for the mission. Five of those bombs were launched and one bomb came back still on a Mirage 2000, apparently because the prelaunch diagnostic system indicated some possible equipment problem with that bomb. This is another safety measure built into the SPICE penetrator bombs to ensure that nothing goes wrong with an airstrike that puts a premium on avoiding casualties to civilians near the target.

An Israeli manufacturer developed this variation on the American JDAM in 2005. SPICE added a camera in the nose, and the capability to store several digital photos of the target (a building, radar antennae, or a moving target, like a missile transporter) in the bomb. When SPICE gets close enough to see what's down there, the 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. SPICE equipped bombs have small wings and can be dropped up to 100 kilometers from the target. For the penetrator version of SPICE, the aircraft has to be closer and at a higher altitude.

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 like Paveway. The latest version of SPICE has a much-improved guidance sensor (camera) and computer and can store up to a hundred images of potential targets as well as instructions on what to hit when there are multiple choices. Many of these images are of the same target from different angles.

India used the SPICE 2000 kit, which is built to be attached to a 906 kg (2,000 pound) dumb (unguided) bomb. Currently, the only Indian aircraft equipped to handle SPICE are some of their Mirage 2000s. India is equipping some of their Russian Su-30MKI aircraft to handle SPICE.

As for Balakot, Israel has used SPICE 2000 bombs against similar targets (multi-story brick or concrete buildings) and generally used the penetrator version of the bomb. This one has a hard metal (nickel-cobalt steel alloy) front end and a fuze that can count the number of levels the bomb penetrates before detonating a smaller quantity (80 kg/176 pounds) of explosives than the non-penetrator version carries. The penetrator is designed to destroy underground and above aboveground structures after penetrating at least three meters beneath the basement. This underground explosion produces an overpressure directed upwards into the intact building. That overpressure shockwave is strong enough to kill most people in the building but does not collapse the building or send debris flying outside the structure. Israel uses these bombs against concrete multistory buildings in Gaza. These structures are deliberately located in residential neighborhoods to discourage bomb strikes because if the target building is collapsed or blown up there will be casualties among nearby civilians. The SPICE penetrator can destroy the interior of such buildings, killing most of the inhabitants without causing much damage to surrounding buildings.

India knew of these SPICE capabilities and targeted the main building at Balakot, which is used for training as well as housing for terrorism trainees and staff. It was later discovered that at least 35 bodies were taken away from the camp and quickly (according to Islamic law) given funerals. Many more badly wounded people were taken out of the camp. News of some of those funerals got out, further discrediting Pakistani claims that there was no damage to buildings or any casualties. Eventually, higher resolution photos of the main target showed three small holes in the roof where the SPICE bunker-buster bombs entered. Comparison with pre-strike satellite photos also shows that the roof of that building had shifted, which is what happens when the bunker busters penetrate into the ground beneath the building before detonating and creating the fatal overpressure and leaving the building intact (but wrecked on the inside).

India revealed that the Mirage 2000 aircraft only crossed eight kilometers into Pakistan, at high altitude before releasing the bombs. The Indians could have released non-penetrator SPICE bombs from the Indian side of the border and allowed them to glide 60 kilometers to the target. But by releasing them from within Pakistan the SPICE bombs would be able to come straight down onto the target, which the SPICE bunker busters are designed to do. Satellite photos showed evidence of penetrator bombs, not the non-penetrator type which carries over five times as much explosives and depends on blast to blow structures apart.

Pakistan typically seeks to belittle Indian military attacks, if only because Pakistan has lost every war they have fought against India. Those defeats led to Pakistan establishing the “sponsored Islamic terrorist” program in the 1980s to carry out attacks against India with more success and some deniability. Since then India has compiled considerable evidence of the Pakistani use of Islamic terrorists based in the Pakistani portion of Kashmir. These bases trained Pakistani and Indian Moslems in terrorism techniques, then sends out try, and often die, to cross a heavily guarded (with patrols, sensors and troops equipped with night vision gear) border. Some of these Pakistani Islamic terrorists do make it across and are later taken, usually dead but sometimes alive and much has been learned about how these Islamic terrorists are recruited and trained.

Pakistan has been using these Islamic terrorist training camps since the 1980s to train Pakistanis and some Indian Moslems to sneak into Kashmir and establish Islamic terrorist operations against Indian security forces, non-Moslem civilians and any Kashmiri Moslems who were not willing to cooperate, or at least not protest openly, against all this Pakistan-sponsored violence. Most of the violence is on the border itself where there are a growing number of incidents of Pakistani troops firing across the border. Pakistan always blames the Indians for firing first but after decades of foreign observers were able to verify that the Pakistanis always fire first, such border violations no longer have any diplomatic benefit for Pakistan and are now used only to remind Pakistanis that India is a threat.

In the first half of 2020 India reported that there were over 1,200 Pakistani border (and ceasefire) violations in the northwest (Kashmir). This is part of a trend because these ceasefire violations had doubled in 2018 (compared to 2017) and were the highest in the last ten years and are continuing to increase in 2019. The 2018 Pakistani violence on the LoC that serves as the border left 38 Kashmiri civilians and 257 Islamic terrorist (infiltrators from Pakistan) dead as a result of 614 incidents. Most of the violence did not involve casualties. On the LoC there were 2,140 ceasefire violations on the LoC in 2018, up from 971 in 2017 and 449 in 2016. The 2018 violations led to 30 Indian civilians killed along with 20 military personnel. Pakistan has urged young Kashmiri Moslems to carry out violent (often just throwing rocks) attacks against Indian security forces in Kashmir. There were 664 of these attacks in 2018 compared to 342 in 2017 and 222 in 2014. So far this year, and for most of the last two years, the violence in Kashmir has caused the most terrorism related deaths in India.

Ordering more SPICE 2000 bombs sends a message that there may be more Indian retaliation against the terrorist training camps on the Pakistani side of the border.


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