Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have carried out tests of the Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM-ER), which showed a three-times increase in range while maintaining accuracy. The add-on guidance kit for bombs was put through its paces at Australia's Woomera Test Range, where the 500-lb (227 kg) ordnance was dropped by RAAF F/A-18 Classic Hornets from altitudes ranging from 40,000 ft (12,190 m) down to 10,000 ft (3,048 m).
The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) now manufactured by Boeing isn't a new weapon, but a low-cost kit that is bolted on to standard "dumb" bombs to give them some smarts. Using guiding fins and a GPS-aided inertial navigation system, a JDAM-equipped bomb can land within 13 m (42 ft) of its target. Since it’s a retrofit, it’s also relatively cheap at US$27,000 a unit. So far, over 260,000 tail kits have been made and are used by 27 countries.
The JDAM-ER is the latest variant. Jointly developed by Boeing and Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation, it's intended for use on the RAAF’s 500-lb bombs and will be built in Australia. It differs from the standard JDAM in that it has wings that unfold in flight to triple the range from 15 mi (24 km) to over 45 mi (72 km). The modular nature of the kit means that it can be easily upgraded as technology improves and options such as improved laser sensors, GPS jamming immunity and an all-weather radar sensors can be added.
"The JDAM ER wing kit takes advantage of the conventional JDAM aircraft interface and Small Diameter Bomb glide technology," says Beth Kluba, vice president, Boeing Weapons and Missile Systems. "This keeps integration, development and sustainment costs low while bringing customers the range increase needed to neutralize current and future threats."
The JDAM-ER is slated for further tests this year, including flight and certification testing, followed by production and first deliveries by Boeing to the RAAF.