A Ukrainian Air Force official has confirmed that the service is already using air-delivered precision-guided weapons operationally. The Ukrainian Air Force has confirmed that it is using the US-supplied JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) air-launched precision weapon against Russian forces in the country.
U.S. authorities confirmed that Ukraine had received the JDAM-ER, a long-range variant of the weapon capable of striking targets up to 45 miles away with great devastating capability, prompting the announcement.
“We use JDAM bombs,” Yuriy Ignat, spokesman for the Air Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told Ukrainian television today. “They are Western-style bombs with which our air force successfully hits important targets.
These bombs may be less potent, but they hit their targets with pinpoint precision. Ignat said, “I wish we had more of these explosives so we could do better in the front lines. The significance of JDAM being “slightly less potent” is unclear.
Yet, this may indicate that the 2,000-pound bombs with which the weapons delivered to Ukraine are likewise compatible are based on smaller, 1,000-pound or even 500-pound bomb bodies. No information, including photographs or recovered remnants, has been made public thus far that could shed light on the specific bomb variants being used by Ukraine.
Yet, it may indicate that the weapons given to Ukraine are based on 1,000-pound or even 500-pound bomb bodies rather than the 2,000-pound bombs with which they are compatible. There is no information on the bombs Ukraine employs, no photographic evidence, and no recovered bodies.
What little we know about the JDAMs supplied to Ukraine includes the fact that the arsenal includes Joint Direct Attack Munition-Extended Range, or JDAM-ER, variants, which feature deployable wing kits. This means they can hit targets at ranges of up to 45 miles versus 15 miles for a standard JDAM.
Although it’s possible that Ukraine has also gotten regular JDAMs, which are significantly more common, this has not been confirmed.
“Recently, we have supplied Ukraine with longer-range precision munitions, which go a little further than gravity-launched bombs and are precision-guided,” Hecker said during a media roundtable. “That’s a recent ability that we were able to give them probably in the last three weeks.” General Hecker confirmed that he was referring specifically to the JDAM-ER.
Around the same time, videos appearing to match the use of JDAM series weapons began to surface on social media. Although verifying whether the following videos show JDAM attacks is impossible, it is still a real possibility.
Another big mystery that continues to surround Ukrainian JDAMs is what exactly the aerial platform launches them from. The most plausible possibilities are fighter aircraft such as the MiG-29 Fulcrum, Su-27 Flanker, and the few Su-24 Fencers that can carry out long-range attacks. Another possibility is the Su-25 Frogfoot, which uses mainly unguided rockets for ground attacks.
Notably, at least some of the Ukrainian MiG-29s and Su-27s have already been fitted with US-made AGM-88 High-Velocity Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs), and similar modifications could have been made to allow the use of JDAMs.
It appears almost inevitable that the integration procedure will have entailed some kind of correction that erodes, at least to some part, the maximum reach of the JDAM-ER. This is true despite the fact that the launch platform could be different.
“I don’t want to get into the exact tactics,” Hecker said, “but obviously the lower you are, and the further away from surface-to-air missiles that can detect you because of the curvature of the Earth,” affect how far you can travel.
This could also correspond to our previous suggestion that the Ukrainian pilots could be flying towards their targets at a low level before releasing the JDAM-ER in a pop-up maneuver and launching it towards the target.
The JDAM-ER unquestionably provides substantial new capabilities to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, despite its restrictions and the seemingly tiny number of munitions.
When it comes to the latter, the JDAM-ER has significantly more explosive power than the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and variants and derivatives of the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) that the United States has supplied to Ukraine for use against Russian targets at greater distances.
If the Ukrainians can access the more common JDAM, strikes will be immediately constrained to a small area next to the front. Yet, as previously indicated, if the JDAM’s bare-bones version were more widely available, the Ukrainian Air Force would have access to more of these precision-guided weapons.
There are still many unanswered issues about the nature and purpose of the JDAM that was shipped to Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian Air Force has confirmed that these weapons are already being utilized in combat, so we might not have to wait too long for more information.