October 18, 2011:
The AASM SBU-64 infrared (night vision) version of the French Hammer series of smart bombs recently entered service (and is for sale to qualified export customers.) Hammer is a smart bomb kit that can be added to a 250 kg (550 pound) dumb bomb. The kit includes GPS guidance and wings, which provide over 50 kilometers of guided gliding before hitting the target. The SBU-64 enables the pilot or weapons officers to more precisely guide a bomb that has arrived at GPS coordinates carried by the bomb. This is useful if you don’t have a precise location of a target.
Two years ago, France ordered 3,400 of the new AASM bomb kits from manufacturer Sagem. Currently, the new kit only fits 250 kg bombs, but versions for 125, 500 and 1,000 kg bombs are in development. Last year, a new AASM software upgrade was successfully tested, which allowed a 250 kg bomb to hit the target directly from above. Previously, laser and GPS guided bombs have all come in at the target horizontally. By coming in vertically, collateral damage, to nearby structures occupied by civilians, is limited.
France is seeking to grab a share of the smart bomb market by developing new features for its bombs, while remaining competitive with features already in American smart bombs. For example, an AASM with laser guidance will be available next year. France has used its smart bombs successfully in Afghanistan and Libya.