TechFrance's advanced AASM Hammer bombs headed to Ukraine: a game-changer on the battlefield?

France's advanced AASM Hammer bombs headed to Ukraine: a game-changer on the battlefield?

The first test drop of a 1000-kilogram AASM Hammer bomb from the Rafale aircraft.
The first test drop of a 1000-kilogram AASM Hammer bomb from the Rafale aircraft.
Images source: © Dassault
3:54 PM EST, January 23, 2024

For some time, Ukraine has been using JDAM bombs in the standard or ER version. However, they have proven vulnerable to Russian electronic warfare systems, which decrease their precision to around 98-131 feet. Although this is not overly problematic for these bombs due to their widespread destructive power, it poses an issue for aimed attacks at structured targets like bunkers. Moreover, these bombs aren't ideal for combating moving targets.

Modern AASM Hammer-guided bombs, if equipped with the right guiding warheads, do not have this issue. France aims to deliver 600 of these bombs to Ukraine in 2024 in fifty-piece installments each month.

AASM Hammer bombs: a unique European solution

The French have a long-standing tendency to approach design in a way that differentiates them from their competitors. This is especially evident in the defence sector, where many weapon systems possess features not found in American equipment.

An example of this is the AASM Hammer modules made by the Safran group, the name is an acronym for 'Armament Air-Sol Modulaire' and 'Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range'.

Structurally, these modules are intended to be used with standard Mk 82/83/84 bombs, weighing 496 lbs, 992 lbs, and 1,984 lbs respectively. Yet, unlike in JDAM-ER, the tail section of Hammer bombs also contains a rocket engine, in addition to the wings.

This feature allows a bomb to be launched even during low-altitude flight, and it will have a range of up to 9.32 miles. This provides a means for air strikes on key targets, using the radar horizon for protection against ground-based medium-range anti-aircraft radar systems, and simultaneously keeping a safe distance from short-range anti-aircraft systems like the Pantsir-S1.

In contrast, when launched from a high altitude, the range extends to over 43.50 miles, comparable to the JDAM-ER or their Russian counterparts. Such versatile capability gives AASM Hammer operators the flexibility to select the appropriate tactical approach depending on the situation, a benefit not shared by its competitors.

Considerable differences exist in the section containing the guiding warhead; of which there are three types. The basic type is a traditional, cost-effective blend of inertial and satellite navigation with a few meters accuracy. But the most intriguing ones are the two that enable a target to be hit with an accuracy of up to one meter.

  • The first test drop of a 1000-kilogram AASM Hammer bomb from a Rafale aircraft.
  • A model of the AASM Hammer 250 kg bomb on display at the Nitro-Chemu exhibition during the MSPO trade fair.
  • AASM Hammer 250 kg bomb along with various presented guidance warheads.
[1/3] The first test drop of a 1000-kilogram AASM Hammer bomb from a Rafale aircraft.Images source: © Dassault

One incorporates an infrared sensor for thermal imaging of the target, while the other contains a laser-guided warhead. Both can hit a moving target, although the latter requires a separate observer or drone to illuminate the target with a laser beam.

The 551 lbs and 2,204 lbs variants are currently in production, and these will likely be shipped to Ukraine. There are also plans for a 1,102 lbs model. How the Ukrainians will use these bombs remains uncertain, as they may modify their existing equipment to accommodate them, as they currently do with JDAM. There are also unconfirmed reports that Ukraine may soon receive a shipment of Mirage 2000 aircraft.

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