The Ukrainian military has confirmed that they have begun employing the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) air-launched precision-guided weapon supplied by the United States to target Russian forces.
Yuriy Ihnat, the Air Force Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesperson, said in an interview with Ukrainian television on March 31 that they are utilizing JDAM bombs.
Ihnat mentioned that these Western-style bombs used by the Ukrainian Air Force have effectively struck crucial targets. “These bombs are slightly less powerful but are extremely high-precision,” he added.
Ihnat also expressed his wish to acquire more of these bombs, believing they would contribute to their success on the battlefield.
It is possible that the reference to the JDAMs being “slightly less powerful” implies that the bombs provided to Ukraine are built on 1,000-pound or even 500-pound bomb bodies, as opposed to the larger 2,000-pound bombs that are also compatible with the JDAM system.
The exact versions of bombs that Ukraine is using are currently unknown. There is no visual documentation of such weapons in action or recovered wreckage that would offer hints.
Based on the available information, it appears that the JDAMs supplied to Ukraine include the JDAM-ER variant, which has pop-out wings that allow it to target objects up to 45 miles away, compared to the standard JDAM’s range of 15 miles.
There is no proof that Ukraine has also obtained standard JDAMs, but it is feasible given that these weapons are generally far more accessible.
However, if Ukraine has the standard JDAM in its inventory, it would restrict the strikes to proximity to the front lines only.
Yet, the broader availability of the basic version of JDAM could potentially allow the Ukrainian Air Force to acquire a larger number of precision-guided munitions, thereby increasing their capacity for conducting accurate strikes.
JDAMs are wing kits that transform straightforward free-falling bombs into guided munitions, increasing accuracy by allowing the bomb to change its trajectory as it gets closer to the target with the aid of a GPS.
The bomb’s wings spread once dropped, extending its range three times to up to 45 miles kilometers. JDAM kits are made to pair with several Mk 80-series dumb bomb types and other munitions with a similar physical factor.
Earlier this month, US Air Force General James Hecker made the revelation about the JDAM-ER version being provided to Ukraine. He serves as the commander of United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa and Allied Air Command.
Coinciding with the disclosure of the JDAM-ER version being provided to Ukraine, videos emerged on social media that suggested using JDAM-series weapons on the battlefield.
Which Aircraft Is Ukraine Employing To Launch The JDAM Smart Bomb?
It is still unknown which aircraft is used to launch the JDAMs by Ukraine. However, the MiG-29 Fulcrum, Su-27 Flanker, and Su-24 Fencers of the Ukrainian Air Force are some of the most likely contenders for this task.
Although it is less likely, it is possible that the Su-25 Frogfoot, which is primarily deployed for ground assault missions with unguided missiles, could be used to launch JDAMs by Ukraine.
As previously reported by the EurAsian Times, the US-made AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) had earlier been integrated into at least some Ukrainian MiG-29 and Su-27 aircraft, and substantially equivalent modifications may have been done to allow employment of the JDAM.
It is unclear whether the JDAM’s range has decreased due to its incorporation into the Ukrainian Air Force fighter jets.
Meanwhile, during the interview, the Ukranian commander explained that the Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets provided by Poland and Slovakia are insufficient to protect Ukraine’s air, land, and sea territory.
He added that aircraft like the American F-16 or other multi-role fighters of the same type could be helpful. However, he acknowledged that transferring such aircraft would be complex and time-consuming and emphasized the need to initiate such measures immediately.
During a Senate hearing on March 28, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the delivery of modern fighter jets to Ukraine would not be beneficial “at this stage of the war.”
Nonetheless, he did not entirely dismiss the potential of supplying Ukraine with F-16s or other fourth-generation aircraft in the future. Austin also emphasized that the top priority for the Ukrainian military is currently long-range air defense.