NEW DELHI: Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems’ SPICE bomb became a household name after the 2019 Balakot strike when the Indian Air Force used it to target a terrorist hideout in Pakistan.

At the Aero India show earlier this month, Rafael unveiled a new variant of its air to surface weapon system--SPICE250 ER--with a mini turbo jet engine that gives it standoff capability. Rafael also signed a pact with the Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for the joint induction of an anti torpedo defence system.

According to Eli Hefets, corporate regional director, India, of Rafael Advance Defence Systems, the pact with BDL entails advanced technology transfer and the use of indigenous content sourced from India.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

What were the new systems that you unveiled exclusively at this Aero India show?

At Aero India, we unveiled SPICE-250ER (Extended Range), a variant of the SPICE Family, which includes the SPICE-250, SPICE-1000 and the SPICE-2000 guidance kits. SPICE is a stand-off, autonomous, air-to-surface weapon systems that strike targets with pinpoint accuracy and at high attack volumes, independently of GPS navigation, based on its autonomous electro-optic Scene-Matching Artificial Intelligence (AI) Algorithms.

SPICE-250 ER will incorporate a miniature turbo-jet engine with an internal JP-8/10 fuel system, providing the weapon a range of at least 150 km, while retaining the same mission-planning system, aircraft interfaces and aircrew operation.

India has launched “Atmanirbhar Bharat" for self reliance including in defence manufacturing. Does this diminish the importance of India as a market for you?

On the contrary, we remain fully committed to India and deeply involved in its defence and technology endeavours. The joint induction of SHADE (anti-torpedo defence system), which was announced at the show, is part of Rafael's commitment to the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliance) initiative of the Government of India.

We will also work together to identify joint opportunities for export, subject to export control guidelines of the two governments.

Rafael has consistently supported indigenous manufacture through its offset ventures where it has sourced high quality and specialist components and subsystems for its products manufactured in Israel.

A major Electro-Optic contract for the IAF was serviced through one of Rafael’s technology partners based in India. It has been among the first few FOEMs (foreign original equipment manufacturers) who have set up joint ventures in India to support local manufacture of existing contracts as well as to establish itself as an Indian manufacturer for future contracts. The joint ventures established are in the field of land systems, Communication and EW systems.

Overtime, Rafael has also signed joint venture contracts with leading Indian defence companies like Kalyani Group (KRAS) and Astra Microwave (Astra Rafael Communication System). These strategic technology partnerships and joint ventures have led towards substantial and effective transfer of technology to India, enhancement of local production and skills, building and working on projects with superior calibre, and have laid the necessary infrastructure to facilitate export activity. This kind of activity has widened supply chains, and is playing an important role in supporting India's economic stance, especially post-Corona, creating employment, and bolstering its efforts to become a significant exporter of technology. We have identified nearly 100 MSMEs fully qualified to manufacture defence sub-systems.

What about the MoU you signed with BDL for the SHADE system? So far you have tie ups with Bharat Forge and BDL. Any others happening?

Rafael and BDL signed an MoU for joint induction of an Anti-Torpedo Defence System called SHADE for the Indian Navy. SHADE will be the first system in the world to employ a combination of soft kill and hard kill decoys, thereby providing a robust and effective defence against modern torpedoes.

This MoU will be a precursor for cooperation on futuristic systems for the Indian Armed Forces in India, entailing advanced ToT, and a very high indigenous content, leading to self-sufficiency in the field of cutting-edge technology in defence. This MoU represents an ideal opportunity for industrial cooperation between Israel and India, leading to closer collaboration and co-development of advanced systems in India.

India is facing a serious security situation along two of its borders. What kind of a role are you playing in helping India counter the security situation?

Rafael has demonstrated its ability to respond quickly and effectively to emerging needs, without making any quality compromises, as a result of its flexibility, its ability to make swift adjustments, and due to its vast experience in customer requirement analysis and tailor-made solutions. We will continue to provide our Indian partners the knowhow and the technology they require to deal with their complex challenges.