Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) Heading to Ukraine: Though peace may be what most Ukrainian people want this year for Christmas, provided Russia actually left their country – they may get the next best thing, namely the tools to help them drive out the invader.
It was reported on Tuesday that the United States is expected to send Ukraine precision bomb kits that can be used to turn existing unguided munitions, or “dumb” bombs, into precision-guided “smart” bombs.
According to the United States Air Force, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is a guidance tail kit that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurate, adverse weather “smart” munitions. Moreover, with the addition of a new tail section that contains an inertial navigational system and a global positioning system guidance control unit, JDAM can greatly improve the accuracy of unguided, general-purpose bombs in any weather condition.
Once released from an aircraft, the JDAM autonomously navigates to the designated target coordinates, which can be loaded onto the aircraft before takeoff or even manually altered by the crew before weapon release. In addition, the coordinates can be automatically entered through target designation with onboard aircraft sensors. In its most accurate mode, the JDAM system will provide a weapon circular error probable (CEP) of five meters or less during the free flight when GPS data is available. Even without GPS, the JDAM can be accurate to within 30 meters.
Bombs equipped with the kits can be launched from very low to very high altitudes in a dive, toss or loft and in straight and level flight with an on-axis or off-axis delivery. JDAM enables multiple weapons to be directed against single or multiple targets on a single pass.
The United States used JDAMs extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the kits have been exported to more than two dozen other countries.
There are still issues, however, and Kyiv’s forces will have to find a way to make it work with Soviet-era aircraft – but the Ukrainian military was able to adapt the U.S.-made HARM anti-radar missiles earlier this year. The bigger issue of course is that Ukraine has only a limited number of combat aircraft to carry the bombs.
U.S. officials may be keen to provide the kits to Ukraine as there is little risk of escalation – due to the fact that the JDAMs have a relatively short range, which is similar to other U.S. weapons already provided to Kyiv, notably the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
As such, JDAMs couldn’t be used to strike deep into Russian territory but could be used to conduct precision strikes on high-value targets.
That latter fact could be important as the war in Ukraine has turned into an artillery slug match. The JDAMs could enable Ukraine with the ability to take out some of those guns and other systems.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.