The Israeli air force will soon equip a first Lockheed Martin F-16 squadron with the Rafael Spice precision-guidance weapon following a series of tests at the Rafael Shdema desert range.

The guidance kit, dubbed "poor man's Popeye", turns a 900kg (2,000lb) Mk84 bomb into a gliding, precision weapon system. The kit comprises aerodynamic surfaces, an electro-optical (EO) sensor, a GPS-satellite navigation system and a datalink.

Spice provides a range greater than 60km (32nm), while accuracy is "better than" the 3m specified. Rafael officials add that the kit has also been cleared for the BLU-109 penetrator warhead and is being adapted for the 450kg Mk83 bomb.

Rafael says the kit was designed to enable aircraft that cannot carry the AGM-142 Have Nap/Popeye guided missile to hit targets with enhanced accuracy. The Israeli air force says Spice can be launched from outside danger zones.

"The Spice is loaded before the mission with dozens of potential targets and is launched against the ones that have to be destroyed without delay," says an air force source.

Spice guides the bomb initially using inertial guidance before the wide-angle field of view (FoV) EO sensor takes over. The weapon uses scene matching to determine its target, which "means target location error is not an issue".

During approach to the target, the seeker compares its image with those loaded as part of mission planning.

ARafael official says a wide FoV seeker is used to give Spice an off-boresight capability. Once the weapon has been released it is autonomous. Four weapons can be carried on an F-16-class fighter.

GPS guidance is "only a back-up" says a source, adding that if the EO sensor cannot acquire the target for some reason, Spice has the accuracy of a JDAM-type GPS-guided weapon.

Source: Flight International