TechChallenges and Innovations: The Battle for Precision in Ukraine's Warfare

Challenges and Innovations: The Battle for Precision in Ukraine's Warfare

GLSDB - Concept Image
GLSDB - Concept Image
Images source: © Licensor

9:21 AM EDT, April 26, 2024

During a conference organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment LaPlante revealed that some systems, like the GLSDB, have not performed well in Ukraine. We delve into the reasons behind this.
Not every weapon the West has provided to Ukraine has met expectations. Despite numerous successes, there have been setbacks. LaPlante specifically pointed to the GLSDB ground-launched bombs, which have disappointed for various reasons. One significant issue is the disruption of GPS signals by Russian forces in some areas.
This interference leads to the circular error probable (CEP)—the measure of a weapon's precision—dramatically increasing from a few yards to several tens or even hundreds of yards. This is because the inertial navigation system, which operates without external inputs by calculating position from the missile or bomb's speed and flight time, accrues a margin of error over distance.

Challenges Posed by GPS Disruption

Not all weapon systems are equally affected by decreased accuracy. Weapons with high destructive capabilities, such as the JDAM-ER guided bombs or MGM-140 ATACMS ballistic missiles, retain their effectiveness due to their large explosive payload, even if they miss their target by up to 328 feet.
However, weapons with smaller warheads face more significant challenges. For example, the M982 Excalibur missiles and the GMLRS missiles, with their respective warheads, need to strike very close to their target to be effective—something that becomes difficult without precise GPS guidance. Similarly, the effectiveness of glide bombs, including those in the GLSDB category, is significantly reduced when they miss their intended target by even tens of yards. Yet, Russian electronic warfare capabilities, such as the R-330Zh Zhitel system, are not omnipresent.

Alternatives to Ensure Precision without GPS

Some guided munitions employ optoelectronic guidance heads that identify targets by their heat signature or laser-guided systems to circumvent GPS jamming. These methods are immune to electronic countermeasures and can strike moving targets with accuracy better than 10 feet.

Optoelectric guidance, exemplified by the AASM Hammer and SPICE-guided bombs, is a premium but sparingly used option. These systems navigate to the target area using inertial guidance before homing in with advanced recognition algorithms and a thermal camera in the final phase.

Laser guidance presents an older, cost-effective alternative that excels in precision. However, it requires the target to be continuously illuminated by a laser until impact, complicating its use. Despite potential countermeasures, innovative strategies, such as employing drones for target illumination or coordinating attacks between artillery and unmanned systems, offer viable workarounds.

Recent deliveries to Ukraine, like the Paveway IV bombs and Vulcano 155 GLR missiles from Germany, demonstrate the evolution of precision-guided munitions beyond GPS reliance. Despite depleting stocks of certain munitions like the Kvitnyk missiles, developing new weapons, such as Poland's APR 155 missiles, indicates ongoing advancements in this area.

This exploration suggests that, although reliance on satellite navigation has its vulnerabilities, the defense industry continues to innovate, offering systems capable of precise engagement even without GPS.
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