Air Weapons: Ukraine Gets JDAM-ER


March 20, 2023: The United States has delivered JDAM-ER bomb kits to Ukraine and, in early March, the first was used against a Russian target. Ukraine still has a lot of operational combat aircraft some of which have been modified to use American bombs and missiles. With JDAM ER, Ukraine can hit targets deeper into Russian occupied Ukrainian territory.

The original JDAM bomb kit was introduced in 1997 and could be used with 500, 1,000, and 2,000-pound bombs. JDAM kits cost $26,000 each. JDAM could glide up to 28 kilometers. JDAM-ER, which entered service in 2016, and can glide up to 80 kilometers to a target, Max range is usually 70 kilometers to ensure the target is hit. Each JDAM ER kit cost about $10,000 more than the JDAM kit. The ER version uses more control surfaces and a more powerful GPS guidance system to hit targets at longer ranges. Since 1997m n early half a million JDAM kits have been delivered or are on order.

There was one problem Ukraine had to overcome before using JDAM-ER; modifying the fire control system of the MiG-29 and other Russian-designed combat aircraft that would use JDAM-ER. Ukraine had already done this for American missiles and the JDAM-ER capability was added to Ukraine aircraft before the JDAM-ER kits arrived.

Even longer range glide bombs were developed. By adding a small turbojet engine, longer range JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) versions were made available. JASSM cost $500,000 (the 400 kilometers version) to $930,000 (the 900-kilometer JASSM ER) each. Air defense systems can detect JDAM, JSOW and JASSM but with some difficulty because these glide bombs are small, low and slow moving.

There were earlier efforts to produce longer range JDAM. In 1998 the longer range (with wings) JSOW had a range of 120 kilometers and used folding wings and more powerful guidance system), cost $460,000 each. The problem with JDOW was that it was not a guidance kit but a longer range glide bomb that came in one size (a ton).

Israel improved on the JDAM design in 2003 when Israeli firm Rafael introduced a variation on the American JDAM called SPICE (Stand-Off Precision Guidance Munition). 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) for the bomb to hit. 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 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 and such. The SPICE 1000 kit is for the 453 kg (1,000 pound) dumb bomb.




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