The US is expected to send Ukraine precision bomb kits that will turn existing unguided munitions, or “dumb” bombs, into precision-guided “smart” bombs known as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, according to multiple US officials.
The kits add fins and a precision guidance system to the “dumb” munitions. They are expected to be included in the next security aid package to Ukraine as soon as this week, the sources said, though officials did not say how many JDAMs would be provided, or what specific type.
The precision bombs could help Ukraine attack fixed Russian defensive lines or other large targets. But they need to be dropped from fighter jets, which remains a significant challenge because of Russia’s own air defenses.
The Ukrainian military would also need to find a way to target and launch JDAMs from Soviet-era aircraft, much as they did with US-made HARM anti-radar missiles earlier this year. The Ukrainian Air Force adapted MiG-29 fighter jets to be able to fire the HARM missile. They will have to do the same for JDAMs.
The kits can be connected to bombs of different weights and sizes, ranging from a 500-pound bomb to one that is 2,000 pounds. The munitions then use a combination of GPS and an inertial guidance system to strike a target with precision. An additional system can also give the bomb laser guidance to strike a moving target.
The US used JDAMs extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. The kits have been exported to more than two dozen other countries, according to Boeing, the manufacturer of the kits. To date, more than 400,000 kits have been produced at a cost of approximately $22,000 per kit.
The kits, first reported by The Washington Post, give the bombs a range of approximately 15 miles, according to Boeing.
The next aid package to Ukraine is also expected to include Patriot air defense systems, as CNN first reported last week.
The US has provided billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February, and sees it as effective in helping the Ukrainians fight back. While Ukraine has asked for certain weapon systems, like the Patriot missile defense system, the Biden administration has had a careful approach to what is provided to Ukraine and when.
The JDAMs do not carry a serious risk of escalation, one official said, because of their relatively short range, similar to other weapons the US has provided. The kits would not allow Ukraine to strike deep into Russian territory. The precision Excalibur rounds fired from Ukrainian artillery have approximately the same range, while the Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System missiles launched from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) have a significantly longer range than JDAMs.