Espreso. Global

Pentagon contracts SARA for JDAM guided bomb modernization for Ukrainian Armed Forces. Serhiy Zgurets’ column

7 May, 2024 Tuesday

European and American companies are creating new solutions to enhance the capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield


Frontline update

Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, provided an update on the challenging situation at the frontlines yesterday. He has been actively engaged with units involved in defensive operations against Russia's primary offensive. Currently, Russian forces are attempting to breach Ukrainian defenses and advance towards the towns of Kurakhove and Pokrovsk. Recent reports indicate that Russian troops have seized control of Ocheretyne and Arkhanhelske, west of Avdiivka. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are tasked with halting their progression westward towards Pokrovsk or northward to the Pokrovsk-Konstyantynivka highway.

In the Kurakhove direction, the heaviest fighting is currently taking place near Krasnohorivka and in the town itself in the area of the brick factory. Russia has also been trying to surround Chasiv Yar from Bohdanivka and Ivanivske for a long time without success or to break through to Chasiv Yar with frontal attacks from the east despite the losses. So far, the Russians have not succeeded.

Reports, which are still pending verification, suggest a potential expansion of our bridgehead in Krynky. However, the current situation at this bridgehead, like the entire frontline, remains extremely challenging.

Also, on May 6, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine reported another successful operation using MAGURA V5 maritime drones. As a result of the attack, a Russian boat was destroyed, which was located in the Vuzka Bay in the village of Chornomorske, occupied Crimea.

There was also video footage from the Russian side that showcased Ukrainian boats equipped with missiles capable of targeting Russian helicopters. Specifically, R-73 air-to-air missiles were observed, designed for anti-helicopter operations, indicating a shift in the capabilities of Ukrainian drones. In one video, a drone appeared to launch missiles, although it did not hit the KA-52 helicopter in question. This development marks a new stage in drone functionality, enabling operations beyond their previous capabilities.

On Russia's nuclear threats

Russia has once again started threatening with nuclear weapons against the backdrop of increased assistance to Ukraine from the United States and European countries, this time with tactical nuclear weapons. Putin has given orders, and the Russian General Staff has begun preparing exercises, during which, as stated, a set of measures will be taken to practice and use non-strategic nuclear weapons. This, they claim, is in response to allegedly provocative statements and threats made by some Western officials against Russia.

It can be assumed that this is a traditional targeted campaign by the Russian side to put pressure on our Western partners to stop or limit military assistance, including counteracting the intentions that have been stated about the possibility of sending NATO armed contingents to Ukraine. I believe that Russia's logic is as follows: no matter how much you support Ukraine, don't forget that we have nuclear weapons and we can use them. This well-known practice of intimidation by Russia has happened before. I am sure that it will not work, and will rather be counterproductive for Russia itself, because, in particular, lowering the nuclear threshold is unlikely to be supported by the conditional partners of the Russian Federation, which include China.

Let me remind you that tactical nuclear weapons have never been used on the battlefield, and now Russia has about 1,900 different tactical munitions for use in cruise missiles, nuclear bombs, and large-caliber artillery ammunition.

Ukraine's cooperation in the defense industry

European countries are considering expanding cooperation with Ukraine in the defense industry. On May 6, the EU-Ukraine Defense Industry Forum was launched in Brussels. It brought together 140 defense companies from 25 European countries, including representatives of Ukraine. The main focus of this forum is to expand cooperation between Ukrainian and European defense companies, to use European money and direct it to the purchase of weapons manufactured in Ukraine.

By the way, there are already a number of European and American companies that are creating new solutions to improve the capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield. On May 3, 2024, the Pentagon announced that it had signed a contract with Scientific Applications and Research Associates (SARA) to significantly modernize JDAM guided bombs.

Oleh Katkov, a military expert and editor-in-chief of Defence Express, spoke about the modernization of JDAM guided air bombs, noting that there is information about the reduced effectiveness of American precision weapons due to Russian electronic warfare systems that suppress satellite navigation. First, it became known that the 155 mm Excalibur precision artillery ammunition demonstrated poor accuracy characteristics, precisely because of electronic warfare. After that, it was reported that GLSDB also showed inefficiency due to low security and powerful Russian electronic warfare. Precision weapons are effective only when they hit the target. Therefore, there was a logical and pragmatic solution to make a miniature guidance system that can be integrated into an aircraft bomb and will be aimed at the source of the interference itself, at the electronic warfare systems.

The military expert added that such systems could also be installed on GLSDB munitions, as electronic warfare systems reject them, and then they would be better able to hit the electronic warfare systems themselves. At the same time, we are talking about improving all other systems that use satellite guidance to hit ground targets.

The editor-in-chief of Defense Express highlighted that the range of JDAM-ER varies depending on the flight mode from which these bombs are deployed. In high-speed flight scenarios, the range exceeds 70 km. However, given the presence of enemy air defense systems, the only viable method for utilizing JDAM-ER is through low-altitude flight with the assistance of a cabover, resulting in a range of approximately 30-40 km.

Katkov commented on the news of Rheinmetall supplying 100 km range projectiles and emphasized that the German company's product catalog does not include such ammunition. However, it is known that such developments are not limited to Rheinmetall. In particular, it was reported about a munition called Ramjet 155 from the Boeing and Nammo conglomerate, which has a range of 70 km. There is also a projectile being developed by Leonardo. The Spanish manufacturer Expal is developing a munition that has an official range of 60 or 80 km.

Mr. Katkov explained that the traditional means of increasing the range of an artillery projectile is the so-called active-jet principle, when the projectile is equipped with a small solid-fuel jet engine. It has been reported that it will be used, and a bottom gas generator will also be added to reduce atmospheric fluctuations and turbulence behind the projectile during its flight, which will also have a positive impact on the range. There is no information yet on what these projectiles will look like. But it is important that these developments allow us to turn standard 155-mm ammunition into long-range ammunition. In the end, Ukraine has become a very convenient testing site and sending new samples of ammunition seems to be a pragmatic decision that will prove their real combat effectiveness.

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