French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said that the country will supply Ukraine with 50 AASM bombs per month until the end of 2024. These munitions have never been in service with Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Zaborona explains how the French bombs work, what their advantages are, and what is the possible outcome of using them in Ukraine.
AASM Hammer: what we know
AASM Hammer stands for Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, a Highly agile modular munition extended range. By its type, the munition can be attributed to guided aerial bombs, which are actively used in the Russian-Ukrainian war:
- In 2023, the Russians used their so-called GABs (guided aerial bombs) or UPKM (Universal Planning and Correction Module);
The Ukrainian Armed Forces have American-made JDAM guided bombs, which are also aircraft bombs with an attached planning module.
In the early 2000s, the French company Safran Electronics & Defense began developing the AASM Hammer bomb, and its first tests took place in 2004-2005. Since 2008, this weapon has been supplied to the French Armed Forces.
Features of the French bomb
The AASM Hammer has modifications with different explosive weights: 125, 250, and 1000 kilograms. The 1000 kg version was certified only in 2022, meaning that the French continue to develop the technology for the use of this ammunition even now. This may indicate the presence of warm production lines in France and the possible potential to increase production.
The French bomb has a slightly more complex structure than its Russian and American counterparts.
The munition is based on a warhead (aerial bomb). The front of the bomb is equipped with a guidance system, which can have different variations of systems depending on the modification. In total, four types of guidance systems were created for the AASM Hammer:
- GPS coordinates;
- inertial guidance;
- infrared homing;
- laser guidance.
A range extension kit is placed on the back of the munition. The manufacturer claims that this part can either be active or inactive. It can be assumed that this gradation depends on whether an acceleration motor is mounted on the back.
As for the range, according to Safran Electronics & Defense, it is 60-70 km. To compare, the range of JDAM bombs varies between 40 and 75 km, depending on the modification.
The available option of an in-house engine is the main feature of this munition, which makes it different from its American and Russian counterparts. The fact is that JDAMs and Russian GABs have only winged glide systems. This allows them to fly a certain distance, but it is severely limited by the altitude from which the bomb is launched: that is, the higher the aircraft is, the greater the distance the munition can fly. Thus, pilots are forced to approach the front line at a fairly high echelon, risking being caught by enemy air defense.
If equipped with an engine, French AASM Hammer bombs can fly the claimed 60–70 kilometers, even if launched at low altitudes. This option allows pilots to reduce the risk when launching strikes.
Application of the AASM Hammer in Ukraine
In Ukraine, the French bombs will have to be adapted to Soviet aircraft currently in service with the Ukrainian Air Force. The exact type of aircraft is still unknown, but several types will likely be adapted at once. It all depends on the warhead’s weight: it ranges from 125 to 1000 kg. Given this, it can be assumed that the bombs will be used on MiG-29 and Su-27, as well as on the Su-24 bomber (heavy modifications).
The AASM Hammer will be a significant enhancement to the Ukrainian Air Force’s ability to conduct air-to-ground strikes against the positions of the occupying forces. Providing Ukraine with aircraft bombs equipped with engines could significantly improve the safety of Ukrainian pilots on combat missions, but it is currently difficult to predict which modification will be provided to Ukraine. However, even bombs without engines of their own would also significantly help the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The practice of using JDAMs has proven to be effective, but the small number of these weapons does not allow for a systematic usage against enemy targets. AASM Hammer might not allow achieving this systematic approach just yet, but will definitely be useful in getting much closer to it.