Air Weapons: JSOW Annoys the Russians

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March 20, 2007: Poland and Greece have bought 118 American AGM-154C JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon). Poland is getting 78, Greece the rest. JSOW is basically a smart bomb with wings. That enables it to glide up to 130 kilometers from the aircraft dropping it, to a target on the ground. Range is about 50 kilometers if dropped from low altitude. JSOW also contains more elaborate fins and software that enables it to follow a specific route. Like the wingless JDAM smart bomb, JSOW uses GPS and inertial guidance (as a backup) to find its target. Like JDAM, JSOW will hit within 30 feet of its aiming point.

There are three versions of JSOW. AGM-154A carries 145 bomblets that attack personnel and vehicles. AGM-154B contains six SADARM bomblets that seek out and destroy armored vehicles in an area 300 by 600 meters. This one costs $490,000 each. The AGM-154C carries a 794 pound warhead that can penetrate concrete or earth before detonating the high explosives it carries. This model contains a video link that allows for hitting very small targets (like going through a window) and costs $720,000 each.

Each JSOW weighs 1,100-1,500 pounds, depending on type. Not a lot of JSOWs have been bought because there is not a lot of demand for them. The purpose of a stand off weapon is to keep the aircraft away from enemy anti-aircraft defenses (mainly missiles.) Some JSOW have been used in Iraq (between 1999 and 2003) and Afghanistan (2001.) But in most cases, the much cheaper JDAM (about $26,000 each) does the job just as well. But against a better equipped foe, like China, Syria, Iran or North Korea, JSOW would be more useful.

Poland just received its first F-16s. Greece is buying JSOW because its ancient enemy (and NATO ally) Turkey has also bought it. Poland probably bought JSOW just to annoy the Russians.

 


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