TechFrance ups the ante. Superior AASM hammers to boost Ukrainian F-16s

France ups the ante. Superior AASM hammers to boost Ukrainian F‑16s

The first test drop of a 1000-kilogram AASM Hammer bomb from a Rafale aircraft.
The first test drop of a 1000-kilogram AASM Hammer bomb from a Rafale aircraft.
Images source: © Dassault

12:43 PM EDT, May 3, 2024

The French are incorporating their sophisticated AASM Hammer glide bombs into F-16 aircraft soon to be delivered to Ukraine, showcasing the capabilities of the formidable French "hammer."

According to Thomas Gassilloud, chairman of the National Defense and Armed Forces Committee of the French National Assembly, this initiative involves equipping Ukraine with both the hardware and technical support needed. The adaptation of the F-16A/B MLU aircraft, earmarked for Ukraine, for carrying the precision AASM Hammer bombs represents a significant step. These systems are highly effective and offer superior accuracy compared to the JDAM-ER bombs, particularly in situations where the latter falls short.

While Ukrainian forces have been employing MiG-29 and Su-27 aircraft to deploy the French bombs, this arrangement lacks the full integration that would allow for optimal weapon use. This development is noteworthy, especially given France's historical hesitation to integrate its weaponry with American-made aircraft, traditionally proposing such armaments exclusively with its own aircraft models.

AASM Hammer bombs - superior where American JDAM-ER falls short

Developed by Safran, the AASM Hammer, or Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range, is a French precision bomb system. These kits, which are fitted onto Mk 82, 83, and 84 bombs weighing 496 lbs, 992 lbs, and 1984 lbs respectively, enhance the bombs much like the JDAM-ER or Paveway systems. However, the AASM Hammer sets itself apart with an added rocket motor and a guidance system augmented by foldable wings.

Thanks to this unique design, AASM Hammer bombs can be launched from both high altitudes and low altitudes, the latter being particularly useful for dodging ground-based anti-aircraft radars like the S-300/400 systems. The gliding bomb boasts a range of about 9.3 miles, enabling attacks on targets like the Pancyr-S1 from a safe distance.

One of the standout features of AASM Hammer bombs is their wide variety of guidance heads, a versatility not found in competing systems. The primary guiding system relies on inertial and satellite navigation, which, despite being vulnerable to Russian jamming techniques, is less of an issue for larger bombs. However, for smaller, 496-pound bombs targeting fortified areas, precision is critical.

For these situations, two alternative guidance heads ensure accuracy up to 3 feet and can track moving targets. One system employs a laser beam reflected off the target, necessitating a drone to illuminate the target up until impact. This approach, while effective, can potentially alert the target through its sensors. A more sophisticated and reliable method employs an optoelectronic guiding head, which uses thermal imaging to independently detect, identify, and track targets based on a database and image recognition algorithms, offering a "fire and forget" capability.

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