Ukraine ‘Hammers’ Russia With French Smart Bombs Integrated On MiG-29 Fighters As It Awaits F-16s

The Germans have refused to send their long-range precision missiles to Ukraine, but the French-supplied precision-guided bomb has been successfully integrated with the Ukrainian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets.

France started supplying the Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM), commonly known as HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range), 50 of these per month in January 2024. A French smart air-to-surface stand-off weapon developed by Safran Electronics & Defense, the smart bomb can be used for both close air support and deep strike missions.

The Ukrainians were earlier carrying out strikes with the US-provided Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) glide bombs, but the supply of these bombs was halted due to Washington stopping the aid to Ukraine. On March 5, 2024, Ukrainian forces utilized the AASM Hammer against Russian positions in Kozachi Laheri, located on the east bank of Kherson Oblast.

Russian state-controlled media later confirmed the development, quoting the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation as saying that ground-based air defenses had shot down a single guided bomb “in the zone of a special military operation.”

A photo of a MiG-29 carrying a single 250-kilogram AASM 250 Hammer on the inner pylon under the port wing began circulating on social media. The aircraft also had blue and yellow markings designed to reduce the threat of ‘friendly fire.’

Military observers suggest that the use of the same pylon as the JDAM-ER has facilitated the swift deployment of the Hammer. Like the JDAM, Hammer is a conversion kit for existing dumb bombs. After the March 5 strike, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense released a video showing a superimposed photo of an AASM 250 Hammer with a Ukrainian inscription on the bomb body.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on January 16 that France would send AASM bombs to Ukraine as part of a wider support package that also included additional MBDA SCALP EG cruise missiles. The AASM SBU-54 HAMMER is capable of engaging moving land targets or high-speed agile marine targets with remarkable accuracy, down to within a meter.

The HAMMER’s intended airframe host was the F-16 Fighting Falcon, as integration and drop trials had taken place on a Lockheed Martin F-16 in 2014. However, with the international ‘F-16 coalition’ making it clear that the aircraft is due to be delivered only in the third quarter of 2024, the Ukrainian Air Force integrated the bomb with the MiG-29s.

The AASM Hammer is essentially a conventional bomb that’s been enhanced with a guidance and glide kit, transforming it into a formidable tool of precision and range. Its hybrid design sets it apart from other military technologies and is indicative of a larger trend in which fighting equipment is becoming more versatile and adaptive.

The AASM Hammer comes in two types: one with a 250-kg Mk 82 bomb and another with a heavier 1,000-kg BLU 109 or Mk 8 bomb. Another advantage of this bomb is its Range Extension Kit (REK), which can be fitted with a solid fuel engine.

The REK boosts the bomb’s range, allowing for strikes from safer distances. The kit also includes options for guidance systems, ranging from satellite-only to thermal or laser semi-active guidance, alongside an airburst detonation feature.

The 250-kilogram AASM 250 seen in the photo has a typical standoff range of around 45 miles, comparable with the JDAM-ER that Ukraine’s MiG-29s also use.

The Hammer comes with a GPS-assisted inertial navigation system (INS) guidance package designed to strike static targets. However, it is equipped with infra-red imaging or semi-active laser homing modes that allow it to strike moving targets as well.

The range of the bomb is up to 70 kilometers when fired from high altitudes and up to 60 kilometers for the light version when dropped from high altitudes. The OEM claims that the bomb can detonate without direct contact with the target.

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The Russian Air Defenses have been keeping the Ukrainian fighter fleet on its toes. At the beginning of the month, Ukraine lost another MiG-29. However, fired from a lower altitude, the French smart bombs do provide the Ukrainian Air Force with a lethal weapon to hit behind Russian frontlines with precision.

The Hammer bombs are expected to be integrated with other Ukrainian fighter jets, such as Su-24s and Su-27s.

The bombs debuted in combat in 2008 in Afghanistan when Rafale used them for air support. During the conflict in Libya in 2011, an AASM dropped from Rafale destroyed a Libyan attack aircraft at Misrata airport and a tank at a distance of 55 km, with a total of 225 bombs used, achieving an effectiveness of 99 percent.

In September 2020, India also ordered Hammers along with the Rafale fighter jets. There has been news of Hammer being integrated with the Indian indigenous Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas.’

The AASM Hammer has significantly enhanced the military capability of the Ukrainian Air Forces to conduct air-to-ground strikes, but at 50 units per month, the numbers are too small to be a considerable deterrent to the Russian Forces.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • The author can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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