TechUkrainian MiG-29s deploy French AASM bombs in high-risk maneuvers

Ukrainian MiG‑29s deploy French AASM bombs in high-risk maneuvers

A Ukrainian MiG-29 during the drop of guided bomb barrels with AASM Hammer modules at low altitude.
A Ukrainian MiG-29 during the drop of guided bomb barrels with AASM Hammer modules at low altitude.
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Przemysław Juraszek

28 June 2024 19:32

Ukrainian aviation continues to conduct operations against Russian forces, utilising the remaining aircraft while awaiting the delivery of the promised F-16 planes. For this reason, footage showing a MiG-29 dropping guided bombs with AASM Hammer modules is rare. We explain the nature of the manoeuvre and the uniqueness of the guided bombs from France.

Before the war, Ukrainian aviation mainly relied on MiG-29, Su-27, strike Su-24, and assault Su-25 aircraft. Now, only a small fraction of the pre-war capability is maintained with tremendous effort.

For this reason, airstrikes on Russian positions are conducted only for precious targets or in challenging situations for ground units. We are most likely seeing such an instance below, where a low-flying MiG can be seen rapidly ascending just before dropping a pair of bombs. This manoeuvre aims to increase the range of the bombs, allowing them to ascend briefly after being dropped before falling on their target.

MiG-29 and AASM Hammer bombs

Ukrainian MiGs are also used as air defence radar hunters or strike aircraft, in addition to their original tasks of hunting enemy aircraft and helicopters.

For attacks on Russian forces, JDAM-ER-guided bombs are used, but a much better and safer tool is the unique French AASM Hammer bombs. Unlike ordinary glide bombs, these allow for dropping at very low altitudes while offering significant range.

In the case of JDAM-ER glide bombs equipped with folding wings or their Russian copies FAB with UMPK modules, it is possible to strike targets at a distance of even 70 kilometres, but the bomb must be dropped from a high altitude, e.g., 10,000 metres or more. This means exposing the aircraft carrying them to medium-range air defence systems, such as the S-300, which has a range of over 100 kilometres.

The solution to this problem is low-altitude flight, where the detection range of practically any ground radar is limited to about 40 kilometres. However, at the same time, the range of glide bombs decreases since they have no opportunity to glide.

Valuable weapon from Paris

France addressed this issue with its AASM Hammer modules, an acronym for Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range. These use a rocket engine to propel the bomb. Thanks to this, the range when dropped from a low altitude is, according to the manufacturer, 15 kilometres, which exceeds the capabilities of short-range Russian air defence systems such as the Pantsir-S1.

Meanwhile, in the case of systems like the S-300, the bomb-carrying aircraft with AASM Hammer modules during ascent remains visible on enemy radar for only a short time, giving operators little opportunity to react.

If we combine this with the fact that French bombs allow hitting a target with an accuracy of up to 1 metre and are suitable for combating even moving objects, we get a powerful weapon. Importantly, they prove effective (with appropriate guiding heads) even under the influence of Russian electronic warfare systems, which pose problems for ordinary JDAM bombs.

As a result, an ideal tool for attacking command points or mighty fortifications has been developed. So far, Ukrainians primarily use the lightest 250-kilogram versions, which fighter jets can easily carry.

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