Air Weapons: Poland Orders Additional Stealthy Missiles to Scare Russia


December 7, 2016: Poland has ordered another 70 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles). The new order is for the AGM-158B JASSM ER (extended range of 900 kilometers). In 2014 Poland ordered 40 AGM-158A (range 400 kilometers) and began receiving these in 2016. The Poles are also buying millions of dollars’ worth of spare parts, maintenance equipment and tech support. JASSM is used on Polish F-16 fighters.

Poland needs JASSM to deal with the modern air defenses Russia is building. Russia is the only real enemy Poland has in the region and Poland wants to be prepared for the worst. Apparently Poland believes the worst is more likely now than in 2014 and the United States agrees. As a member of NATO Poland expects back up if the Russians come after them and JASSM provides a way to discourage or at least slow down Russian aggression.

JASSM is the third family of GPS guided smart bombs to be developed and is the most expensive. The original JDAM GPS bomb kit (added to 500, 1,000 and 2,000 pound bombs), cost $26,000 each. The longer range JSOW (JDAM with wings and more powerful guidance system), cost $460,000 each. The even longer range JASSM cost over half a million dollars (the 400 kilometer version) to over a million dollars (the 900 kilometer JASSM ER) each. Then there is the SDB (Small Diameter Bomb), a 250 pound JDAM that can also punch through concrete bunkers and other structures. These cost $75,000 each. All these are basically GPS guided smart bombs.

JASSM missiles are 1,045 kg (2,300 pound) weapons that are basically 455 kg (1,000 pound) JDAMS (GPS guided bombs) with a motor added. JASSM was designed to go after enemy air defense systems or targets deep in heavily defended (against air attack) enemy territory. The original reason for buying these was to have something to deal with air defenses of a nation like China. The air force and navy planned to buy over 5,000 JASSM, but there has been opposition in the military and in Congress. The missiles are ten times more expensive than a JADM bomb of the same weight. But the aviators make the argument that many aircraft and pilots would be lost if the air defenses of a nation like, perhaps China, were attacked without using JASSM.

JASSM is stealthy and uses GPS and terminal (infrared) guidance to zero in on heavily defended targets (like air defense sites.) The terminal guidance enables the missile to land within three meters (ten feet) of the aiming point. If there were a war with North Korea, for example, JASSM would be essential to taking out enemy air defenses, or any other targets that have to be hit early in a war (before air defenses can be shut down.) This capability is apparently what attracted the South Koreans, who now have F-15K aircraft that can carry JASSM. It also caught the attention of Poland when Russian began making threatening noises.

JASSM was designed to handle the most modern Russian surface to air missiles, which are also being sold to China. North Korea has older stuff, and can't afford the newer Russian SAMs. But even these older air defenses can be dangerous, and are best addressed with long range missiles. So there is a need for a missile like JASSM, at least one that works. With Russian warplanes and air defense systems now operating in Syria JASSM may be needed there before in East Europe.




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