As the most observant readers have probably already noticed, in a recent package of military aid from the USA, except for the long-awaited air defense systems MIM-104 Patriot, there was an item about an unspecified number of JDAM precision air bombs. What is that JDAM and how will it help the Armed Forces of Ukraine to generate more good Russians?
In fact, we already partially touched on the topic of JDAM when we talked about the new guided QUICKSINK anti-ship bombs, but a repeat won’t hurt.
The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is a low-cost kit that allows you to turn an ordinary unguided free-falling “dumb bomb”, like those used in World War II, into a high-precision, long-range weapon that can compete with quite expensive GMLRS missiles for M142 HIMARS and M270 MLRS. Joint in the name is an indication of the joint development of the Air Force and the US Navy.
Development of the JDAM began after the Persian Gulf War, when it became clear that bombardment using laser-guided bombs was not as effective as expected. Laser illumination of the target was hindered by smoke from fires, dust, sand, fog and clouds. Pilots could not even always capture the target in the guidance systems. Therefore, in 1992, the development of bombs that do not depend on weather conditions and target illumination began.
The solution turned out to be quite simple – an inertial guidance system plus GPS, and quite cheap – about $25,000 for a modification kit. The first tests took place in 1993 and showed an increase in the radius of damage to 28 km, independence from weather conditions, and a good circular error probable (CEP) of 13 m. In real use, the CEP turned out to be even less – only 7 m, and this is a very cool result.
The JDAM package includes a tail control unit, an interface to aircraft systems, and an inertial guidance computer paired with a GPS receiver. Trajectory correction is carried out using tail control. The navigation system is initialized during bomb drop by receiving initial speed, altitude and heading data from the aircraft systems. Target coordinates can be loaded before takeoff, manually changed by the crew during flight, or entered using an airborne target designator such as LITENING II or Sniper. In its most accurate mode, the JDAM provides a circular error probable of 5 m or even less in the presence of a GPS signal. If the GPS is jammed or lost, the JDAM still provides a CEP of up to 30m in a free fall of up to 100 seconds.
500, 1,000, and 2,000 lb bombs, i.e. 230, 460, and 920 kg bombs can be modernized with JDAM kits. The range of ammunition includes conventional bombs Mark 82, Mark 83 and Mark 84, hardened penetration BLU-109, cluster bombs BLU-136, BLU-126 and BLU-129 with a reduced number of fragments. As of February 2020, 430,000 JDAM kits have been produced for various bomb weights.
Bombs with JDAM began to be supplied to the troops in 1997, and already in 2004 the development of the first update of the system began – Laser JDAM (LJDAM). The military decided to return laser guidance to the bombs and use them in both modes. Unlike conventional JDAMs, laser JDAMs can engage even moving targets.
Another interesting modification offered in 2006 is the JDAM Extended Range. In this case, it does not end with a small tail, here full-fledged folding wings are attached to the bombs, turning them into something like gliding cruise missiles. With such wings, JDAM-ER bombs can hit targets at a distance of 80 km! At the same time, the cost of an additional set is only $10,000.
In 2010, Boeing went even further, offering to add a jet engine to JDAM and turn them into full-fledged cruise missiles with a range of up to 800 km!
In 2014, the development of a version of JDAM specifically for the destruction of EW systems began. Such bombs are self-guided to a source of radio interference, just like AGM-88 HARM missiles are looking for enemy radars.
We wrote a separate piece on the latest version of JDAM – anti-ship QUICKSINK, which was tested only in 2022.
So, as you can see, JDAM is a cheap and more powerful (the number of explosives here is much more) alternative to GMLRS, for the use of which aircraft of the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not even need to enter the area of the frontal air defense means of close and medium range. A good alternative to not-so-precise pitch-up attacks, when planes or helicopters drop bombs, or unguided rockets while climbing with the nose up.
And the fact that the planes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are already compatible with Western weapons was shown by the examples of the successful use of the AGM-88 HARM.
Let’s hope that this is only the first batch of JDAM, as they say “to try”, and there will be more.
P.S. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all readers on 100,000!