Ukraine just got JDAM-ER smart bombs that could change everything

The United States has finally supplied the Ukrainian Air Force with a new type of guided air-to-surface bomb that will change how Ukraine attacks invading Russian forces.

The Biden Administration announced that Ukraine would receive JDAM bombs as part of the $1.85 billion dollar aid package announced during President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington in December 2022 according to the New York Times.

JDAM bomb kits

Speaking at the African Air Chiefs Symposium on February 28th, U.S. Air Force General James Heckler said that Ukrainian forces had been supplied with a new type of precision munition that would give them some extended range and capabilities. 

“Recently, we’ve just gotten some precision munitions [to Ukraine] that had some extended range and go a little bit further than the gravity drop bomb and has precision [guidance],” General Heckler was quoted as saying by The War Zone. 

JDAM trajectory

“That’s a recent capability that we were able to give them probably in the last three weeks,” the U.S. Air Force General added. 

Ukraine will use Polish supplied MiG-29 to deliver JDAM to the target.

The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick later confirmed with General Heckler that he was referring to Joint Direct Attack Munition-Extend Range precision-guided bombs—known by their abbreviation, JDAM-ERs. 

“Standard JDAM kits are designed to be mated to various types of Mk 80-series dumb bombs, and other munitions designed around that same form factor, transforming them into precision-guided weapons,” Trevithick wrote. 

“The complete JDAM kit consists of a new tail, which contains a GPS-assisted inertial navigation system (INS) guidance system, and strakes that go elsewhere along the bomb body giving it a limited ability to glide to its designated target,” Trevithick added. 

Ukraine’s new JDAM bombs could be used in a variety of ways according to David Axe of Forbes. But their biggest benefit is that they would allow the Ukrainian Air Force to launch a new kind of aerial campaign. 

“Flying low and fast toward the front line, a Ukrainian jet lugging a load of JDAM-ERs would pitch up and ‘toss’ the bombs like a softball pitcher underhanding strikes,” Axe wrote. 

“Toss-bombing JDAM-ERs could be the key to a new aerial campaign for Ukraine,” Axe added, noting that the bombs will give Ukraine’s Air Force more range. 

According to the Forbes journalist, Ukrainian Air Force squadrons have been limited since the start of the war in their ability to strike Russian targets. But JDAM-ERs would change everything about how Ukraine’s fighter pilots could operate. 

“Ukrainian squadrons that currently are limited to striking no farther than a few miles from the front could, with their new bombs, blast Russian forces 50 miles away,” Axe wrote, adding that Ukraine could mimic Russia’s air tactics.

“With JDAM-ER, the Ukrainian air force could do with its Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 fighters and Sukhoi Su-24 bombers what the Russian air force does with its Tupolev Tu-95 and Tupolev Tu-160 heavy bombers,” Axe continued. 

Ukraine could, Axe argued, hit and destroy targets “whose destruction actually contributes to Ukraine’s war effort.”

Axe noted that the Ukrainian Air Force could target bridges, supply depots, and even troop concentrations or command headquarters.

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