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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

JDAMs: Ukraine’s New Killer U.S. Weapon Going to War Against Russia

A Russian tank under attack by a drone from Ukraine. Image Credit: YouTube/Ukrainian military.
A Russian tank under attack by a drone from Ukraine. Image Credit: YouTube/Ukrainian military.

JDAM – Satellite-Guided Bombs Headed to Ukraine: The White House will, for the first time, send Patriot air and missile defense systems to Ukraine, along with Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), as part of a $1.8 billion military aid package that was unveiled last week.

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The announcement, made just before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington, D.C., reveals the United States federal government’s willingness to provide advanced weapons previously considered risky to send to Ukraine.

While the Patriot missile systems dominated the headlines, the supply of JDAMs to Ukraine is by no means insignificant and could help Ukrainian forces by giving new life and capabilities to “dumb” munitions.

What Are JDAMs?

Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits are designed to convert regular unguided aerial munitions into “smart bombs.”

The aim is to ensure that Ukraine’s missile strikes are as accurate and efficient as possible at a time when Russian forces are specifically working to cause as much damage as possible while forcing Ukraine to use up its supply of precision-guided rockets to destroy incoming Russian attacks.

The JDAM kit was created as a solution for Air Force leaders during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. JDAM became a replacement for a more expensive system, known as the Paveway II, which was used in limited quantities during the end of the Vietnam War.

The older kit, which was attached to Mark-80 bombs, proved less effective than intended as a result of smoke and sandstorms obstructing the laser beams used to guide the weapon.

The JDAM was designed to use a newly-created constellation of GPS satellites, allowing the rockets to find their targets in all weather conditions.

Every JDAM kit comes with tailfins that can be attached to missiles for steering purposes, as well as the guidance package and control systems, and strakes that can also be attached to the bomb to give it some gliding capacity and more stability.

The kit can be used with multiple forms of missiles, including Mk 84, Mk 83, and Mk 82 “dumb” bombs.

The JDAM guidance package uses an inertial navigation system combined with a GPS receiver which allows operators to fire the rocket with a greater degree of accuracy.

Upgraded rockets can be fired at targets and hit those intended targets within tens of feet in all weather conditions.

Upgraded rockets become “fire and forget” ammunition, allowing the aircraft used to fire them to turn away after they are launched.

For Ukrainian forces focused heavily on targeting incoming Russian rockets and drone strikes, JDAMs will provide a new and accurate way of attacking Russian ground forces and ground-based military equipment. Not only are JDAMs convenient and easy for Ukrainian forces to install on existing ammunition, but they’re cost-effective, too.

In fiscal year 2021, the United States Air Force paid $21,000 on average per JDAM kit.

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Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.