August 30, 2012
Credit: Credit: Australian defense department
Boeing aims to begin deliveries of kits to create gliding JDAM guided bombs starting in 2015, offering a cheap stand-off weapon that probably will be able to hit targets about 110 km (60 nm) away using a wing developed in Australia.
The weapon, called JDAM-ER, combines a new folding-wing kit with the familiar JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) guidance unit and 500-lb. Mk. 82 bomb. The wing makes little difference to the mass and dimensions of the weapon, says the Australian defense department. It offers a cheap alternative to powered stand-off missiles for some missions and will first go into service with the Royal Australian Air Force.
The range of JDAM-ER is classified and depends on the launch conditions and commanded trajectory. Boeing says it can fly more than 64 km, but data from a predecessor program suggests it can fly much further.
Glide bombs have well-known limitations, however. The launch aircraft must expose itself by flying high if the bomb is to go far, and the weapon’s sedate gliding speed gives alert defenders a long time to react.
Despite its obviously wide applications, the JDAM-ER program has received little attention. Its existence has not been secret — indeed, it roots go back to an Australian development effort that began in the 1980s — but until now the Australians and Boeing have said little about it.
Australia contracted Boeing last year to build and integrate the wing kits based on a design developed by the department’s Defense Science & Technology Organization. The U.S. company is working with local manufacturers to initiate production.
The kits will be used first on Australia’s Boeing Hornet and Super Hornet fighters, but the market is obviously much wider. “The wing kit does not significantly increase the weapon’s mass or size, so JDAM-ER can potentially be used with any platform that carries JDAM,” says a spokesperson for the Australian defense department. According to a Boeing executive in Australia, Bill Profilet, several countries already have expressed keen interest in buying the wing kit.
One country with an obvious need for a cheap stand-off weapon, South Korea, will presumably not be a buyer. A manufacturer there, Times Aerospace Korea, is working separately with Boeing on a wing kit for 2,000-lb. bombs fitted with JDAM.