Bolt-on kit turns "dumb" bombs into precision cruise missiles
Boeing and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a jet-turbine-powered kit that turns a standard 500-lb (228-kg) "dumb" iron bomb into a miniature precision cruise missile.
Developed during the 1990s, McDonnell Douglas and its partners came up with a bolt-on kit that turned standard-issue iron bombs into precision weapons without any need to modify the bomb itself. Called the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), it consists of a guidance system, GPS navigation, seeker sensors, and a tail-mounted steering system.
Together, these turn the standard bomb into a precision day/night, all-weather munition that can land within 16 ft (5 m) of its target with a flying time of under 100 seconds for the standard JDAM kit.
The problem is that the standard JDAM kits have a range of only about 13 nm (16 miles/24 km), while the extended range version includes a set of folding wings that allow the bomb to glide for over 40 nm (46 miles/72 km). Since 2010, current manufacturer Boeing has proposed an improved kit called Power JDAM that can extend this to up to 700 nm (805 miles/1,300 km) by including a jet engine, fuel tanks, and support systems that essentially turn the bomb into a small cruise missile that can act as a stand-off weapon launched from 4th-generation fighters.
That idea has languished in US defense circles, but it seems to be moving forward now after Kratos agreed to provide its TDI-J85 turbine engine generating 200 lb of thrust to propel the Power JDAM. According to the company, the proven TDI-J85 will lower the cost of the kit and still be exportable to the 35 nations that employ the JDAM. In addition, the engine produces 1.5 kW of AC power to run the JDAM onboard systems.
"Powered JDAM is the next step in the modular evolution of the JDAM and JDAM Extended Range family of weapons systems," said Bob Ciesla, Vice President of Boeing Precision Engagement Systems. "Its ability to complement exquisite weapons system (sic) with low-cost stand-off capability will add new weapons capacity to the U.S. defense industrial base to support the current fight and deter future fights."