Winning: For Want Of Some Altitude Data

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     April 10, 2019: After the February 26 Indian air strike on Balakot, the main Islamic terrorist training site in Pakistani Kashmir, it was revealed that India had used its Mirage 2000 fighter-bombers for the mission and that Israeli made SPICE (Stand-Off Precision Guidance Munition) smart bomb. Israeli firms developed this variation on the American JDAM in 2005. SPICE adds 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 they will then glide to. 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 bomb. Currently, the only Indian aircraft equipped to handle SPICE are some of their Mirage 2000s. India recently announced that they are equipping some of their Russian Su-30MKI aircraft to handle SPICE.

Pakistan denied that the Indian airstrike had hit anything at Balakot and India initially refused to release its own satellite photos of the Balakot site after the attack. Soon commercial satellite photos were released that did not show any large craters at Balakot the day after but higher resolution commercial satellite photos were eventually available showing three craters (and blast damage to trees around them). The craters were in a pattern similar to three buildings at Balakot and this indicated that the Indians had not entered the altitude of the targets, just the GPS coordinates indicating location. For a smart bomb coming down vertically, the altitude of targets rarely matters. But since Balakot was above sea level and the SPICE 2000 bombs were gliding in from a distance all three appear to have missed their targets in a manner suggesting SPICE was not using the pattern recognition feature of its guidance system, and was instead heading for a precise GPS location at sea level and thus glided over the targets. India also revealed that the Mirage 2000 aircraft remained on the Indian side of the border as they released the bombs and used the glide function to avoid entering Pakistani air space.

Pakistan typically seeks to belittle Indian military attacks, if only because Pakistan has lost every war they have fought against India and established the “sponsored Islamic terrorist” program in the 1980s to carry out successful attacks against India with more success and some deniability. But India has compiled considerable evidence of the Pakistani use of Islamic terrorists based in the Pakistani portion of Kashmir, which trains Pakistani and Indian Moslems in terrorism techniques then loses many of them as they are sent to cross a heavily guarded (with patrols, sensors and troops equipped with night vision gear) border. Some of these Pakistanis 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. The training camps in Pakistani are guarded by Pakistani troops who only allow authorized personnel in. Satellite photos show the camps, despite Pakistani denials, and Balakot is one of the largest and most heavily fortified against air attack. Balakot’s precise GPS location was known as well as its altitude. It is unclear why India did not use the pattern recognition feature unless they did not have sufficiently clear images of those structures to insert in the guidance system memory. Whatever the case, the bombs missed and the SPICE line of smart bombs rarely do that and rarely together in the pattern indicated by the satellite photos.    

 


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