The Indian Air Force (IAF) has once again sourced the highly advanced SPICE-2000 bomb from Israel to strengthen its arsenal. The SPICE-2000 bomb was earlier used in the Balakot airstrike conducted in February 2019, to neutralize Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists hiding in a building. The airstrike was a retaliation against a terror attack carried out by JeM in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district on February 14, 2019, killing 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers. As part of a comprehensive defense strategy, the IAF awarded Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems a USD 40 million contract for the purchase of more than 100 SPICE-2000 bombs.
Over the last two decades, India has been investing in the technological development and deployment of its weapon systems for the protection of its homeland and border areas. It mainly faces threats from Pakistan and China, who have deployed offensive weapon systems against India. Furthermore, cross-border terrorism activities emerging from Pakistan have increased significantly in recent times.
PRECISION-GUIDED MUNITION: MINIMUM DAMAGE, MAXIMUM IMPACT
Smart bombs, such as the SPICE-2000, belong to the category of precision-guided munition that can be aimed and directed against single or multiple targets, using either external guidance or their own guidance system. The Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-effective (SPICE) bomb uses an Electro-optical (EO) guided system that converts an unguided bomb into a precision-guided bomb. It has a range of 60 km with an add-on kit for MK-84, BLU-109, APW, and RAP-2000 bombs. This smart bomb uses advanced scene-matching technology to adjust its flight path by comparing the electro-optical image received in real-time with data stored in the weapon computer system. SPICE has 3 variants: SPICE-1000, SPICE-2000, and SPICE-250. SPICE-1000 and SPICE-2000 are add-on kits for 450 kg and 900 kg bombs respectively, while SPICE-250 is a 113-kg glide bomb designed as a complete system. Precision-guided munition can be launched from aircraft, ships, submarines, and land vehicles, and is used to minimize collateral damage and increase lethality against intended targets.
The Asia Pacific region is the largest demand generator for precision-guided munition due to the increasing procurement by India, Australia, Japan, and China, and the rising investments for the development of technologically advanced munition in the region. For instance, in 2018, the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight-tested its Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) and Helina helicopter-launched Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) at separate firing ranges. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) developed a new air-launched precision-guided munition designed for use by armed reconnaissance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles.
The need for precision-guided munition has grown in recent years due to the rising terrorist activities across the globe. It has become essential to minimize collateral damage and at the same time, provide advanced weapons to combatant commanders.
FIGURE 1 GEOPOLITICAL CONFLICTS BETWEEN NATIONS DRIVING THE GROWTH OF PRECISION-GUIDED MUNITION
Anket Dungarwal, Senior Research Analyst in the Aerospace & Defense domain at MarketsandMarkets™, estimates that the precision-guided munition market will reach USD 47.5 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 8.0% between 2019 and 2025.
Precision-guided munition with high-end technologies can only be procured by countries that have the necessary technological capabilities to develop, test, and certify weapon systems. However, emerging countries are also undertaking initiatives to adopt such weapons. Although nations prefer the indigenous development of precision weapon systems due to the need to maintain unique capabilities that would fit their needs, the significant cost of developing these weapons, the risks involved, and the cost savings due to economies of scale are some of the factors that encourage collaboration between vendors for the development of these weapons. Joint development between allies and partners is expected to drive the market for precision-guided munition during the forecast period.
Lockheed Martin Corporation (US), BAE Systems Plc. (UK), Raytheon Company (US), Northrop Grumman (US), and Saab AB (Sweden), among others are some of the leading players operating in the precision-guided munition market. These companies have entered into agreements and received contracts from government agencies of their respective countries for the development of advanced smart bombs.
The nature of warfare has evolved from conventional border-to-border warfare to more urban-centric warfare. Precision weapons are smaller and lighter compared to conventional weapons, as the number of explosives required to destroy targets is lower than that for conventional weapons. Precision weapons also have multiple guidance systems, which make them highly accurate. Precision strikes have become essential, as they provide indirect fire capabilities in complex terrain, where low-angle fire is essential to neutralize targets. The increasing use of satellite networks, navigational aids, and drones to destroy high-value and long-distance targets is one of the major factors fueling the demand for precision-guided munition.