Lockheed Martin last month secured a $30 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for more “paveway” II laser-guided bomb (LGB) kits. Why the use of lower-case to describe this well known “smart” weapon, many thousands of which have been dropped from Western combat aircraft? It’s because LM and Raytheon compete as a dual-source suppliers of the LGB kits, and the two corporations are in a long-running legal dispute over terminology.
A new “smart” bomb employing three guidance modes is entering service with the UK Royal Air Force. The Raytheon Paveway IV is a 500-pound laser-guided weapon that can alternately be guided by GPS, with backup from an INS system if GPS is not available for any reason (such as jamming).
The Boeing joint direct attack munition (JDAM) is being released to Saudi Arabia, which could acquire as many of 900 of these tail kits that add “smart” GPS guidance to “dumb” bombs. The weapons are intended for the Royal Saudi Air Force fleet of F-15S Strike Eagles. Israel objected to the sale.
Boeing’s guided bomb business is moving forward with the conclusion of a successful test program, a new contract and a growing SDB II program. The test program concerned the Integrated GPS Antijam System (IGAS) for the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).
In the era of “smart weapons” a lot can still go wrong, not the least at the interface between the combat aircraft and the missile or bomb. Here at the Paris Air Show, the EDO Corporation is displaying new “solutions” in the specialized and surprisingly complex business of weapons carriage and release.
Just as those responsible for fighting wars now talk in terms of “effects”–as opposed to material assets–when discussing battle management and the equipment available to them, so defense contractors increasingly talk about “solutions” rather than products.
The Dubai airshow is a benign environment. As you cruise the air-conditioned halls, or sip your drink while watching airplanes cavort in the sunny skies, it’s easy to forget that war is going on. In the air. Just 800 miles from here. That is roughly the distance from Dubai to Baghdad in one direction, and to Kandahar in another.
The combat potential of Sukhoi fighters will get a boost with the addition of new Russian precision-guided munitions (PGMs) such as the Region company’s LGB-250 (250-kg caliber lightweight guided bomb) and UPAB-1500 (1,500-kg caliber guided glide aviation bomb) and the Kh-59MK from the Tactical Missile Corp. (TMC).
Stable export sales and a growing defense budget at home have helped Russian bomb maker Bazalt make its products smarter. Historically, Bazalt has specialized in free-fall and cluster bombs. Today, compact sensors and processors have given those formerly “dumb” weapons a respectable IQ. Here at the show, visitors to Dubai can see some of the company’s most advanced designs yet.
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