Ukrainian MiG-29s already carry French rocket-assisted Hammer bombs.
A close-up view of the MiG-29 special pylon, here loaded with a JDAM-ER.

The Hammer precision bomb, supplied by France, has appeared for the first time in service in Ukraine on a MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter. The chosen platform, or at least one of them, the Ukrainian Air Force has previously used this aircraft to launch units of the AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile, or HARM, supplied by the West, and the joint direct attack munition extended range, or JDAM-ER.

A photo has begun to circulate on social media showing the underside of a MiG-29, with the high-visibility blue and yellow markings designed to reduce the threat of “friendly fire.” The aircraft carries a single 250 kilo (551 lb) AASM 250 Hammer on the inner pylon under the port wing.

Interestingly, the pylons appear to be the same longer versions that provide the physical interface between the Soviet-era aircraft and the JDAM-ER. You can read more about these unusual pylons here, as well as some of the possible additional functions they may offer, especially in terms of weapons guidance and navigation.

The use of the same pylon as the JDAM-ER – something we had predicted in the past was likely to occur – may well have been the reason the Hammer appeared so quickly in Ukraine. Like the JDAM series, Hammer is a conversion kit for existing dumb bombs.

Earlier this month, before we actually saw evidence of the weapon’s integration into the MiG-29, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry released a video of an airstrike on a Russian depot in the Left Bank village of Kozachi Laheri of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region of Ukraine. This footage included a superimposed photo of an AASM 250 Hammer with a Ukrainian inscription on the body of the bomb, a fairly obvious suggestion that it was used in this attack.

It was not until January 18 that France revealed its plans to send Hammer to Ukraine, where up to 50 per month would arrive. As described above, the Hammer is a unique rocket-propelled munition, also known by its French name Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM, or Air-Ground Modular Armament).

Currently, Safran is responsible for the production of the weapon, and the Hammer is available in several versions.

The reference Hammer is the 250 kilo AASM 250, as seen in the photo. It has a typical range of about 45 miles, comparable to the JDAM-ER also used by Ukrainian MiG-29s. Unlike the American weapon, the Hammer uses a solid-fuel rocket to increase its range, rather than a simple wing kit.

The Hammer kit can also be integrated with 100-kilogram (220-pound), 500-kilogram (1,102-pound), and 1,000-kilogram (2,205-pound) bombs, as well as bunker-buster bombs such as the US BLU-109/B. 2,000 pounds, and other types of general-purpose high explosives.

Ukrainian MiG-29s already carry French rocket-assisted Hammer bombs.
A graphic showing the main components of the Hammer weapon.

In addition to the tail-mounted range extension kit (REK) and chosen bomb, the weapon includes a nose-mounted guidance section.

All versions of the Hammer incorporate a GPS-assisted inertial guidance system (INS) designed to engage static targets. But there are also multi-mode guidance options that add infrared or semi-active laser guidance modes. Multi-mode guidance allows Hammer to be used against moving targets and improves its overall accuracy, especially in non-GPS environments.

Due to the resolution of the photo available, it is unclear what type of guidance is used on the Hammer shown under the MiG-29. Furthermore, the overlay photo of the gun was cropped to omit the nose-mounted guidance section.

Regardless of the specific variants used, the Hammer provides the Ukrainian Air Force with a very important weapon with which to attack Russian targets with a high degree of precision, even those located relatively behind the front lines. The range offered by the Hammer should provide Ukrainian pilots with an additional degree of protection against the ever-present threat of Russian air defenses.

Ukrainian MiG-29s already carry French rocket-assisted Hammer bombs.A screen showing different guidance options for the Hammer.

At the moment, we do not know exactly how Ukraine uses its Hammers, but, as we have explained in the past, the approximate range of 45 miles is achieved with a combination of the rocket booster and high-altitude launch.

When launched from lower altitudes, where the Ukrainian Air Force often operates for its own protection, the range is reduced accordingly to about nine miles. Russian air defenses have continued to inflict casualties on the dwindling fleet of Ukrainian tactical aircraft, including another loss of MiG-29s over the Donetsk region last week.

Thomas Newdick