Emmanuel Macron announced in a press conference that France will supply Ukraine with 50 AASM Hammer guided bombs each month. Today, let’s take a look at these “smart” long-range bombs.
France is making every effort to assist the Ukrainian Armed Forces in resisting the Russian aggressor. Our defenders speak highly of the self-propelled artillery units Caesar, which have proven themselves excellently on the front lines. Additionally, the long-range aviation missiles SCALP (the French equivalent of the Storm Shadow missile) have been causing terror among the occupiers for months, shattering their ammunition depots, oil bases, and military vehicle concentrations. Certainly, our French partners will continue providing us with these modern and effective examples of weaponry.
However, in the new aid package, interesting long-range aviation bombs, AASM Hammer, have emerged, which were developed and manufactured by the French company Sagem (a part of the Safran group) for the French Air Force and Navy. These powerful guided aerial bombs are finally essential for our defenders.
Let’s delve into the details of the long-range aviation bombs AASM Hammer.
AASM Hammer smart bombs
First, let’s understand the name of these aviation bombs. The AASM technology (French “Armement Air-Sol Modulaire” – “Modular Air-to-Ground Armament”) HAMMER (an acronym for “Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range”) was developed by the French company Safran 15 years ago. However, in the subsequent years, it underwent several modifications and improvements.
In other words, the AASM Hammer is a high-precision hybrid equipped with a set that allows for increased range and accuracy.
The AASM missile family was first introduced during the Paris Air Show in June 2007. However, the entire weapons system was presented during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) held in Abu Dhabi in February 2013. Sagem showcased the AASM technology and missile guidance during the Paris Air Show in June 2013. The laser version of the AASM Hammer missile made its debut at the Defexpo exhibition in New Delhi, India, in February 2014.
The main idea of the project was to equip a standard aviation bomb with a special kit that would make it “smart,” highly accurate, and long-range.
The standard GPS/inertial version of the AASM was designed for use on twin-engine multi-role fighter jets, Rafale, by the French Air Force and Navy since 2008 and 2010, respectively. The Rafale fighter can carry up to six AASM Hammer-type missiles.
It all started in 2000 when the French defense procurement agency, Délégation Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), selected Sagem to develop and manufacture the AASM weapon system. From May 2008, Sagem officially began selling these missiles to the French Air Force and Navy as part of the agreement signed in 2000.
It’s worth noting that these were quite substantial orders. In December 2009, Sagem received a long-term order from DGA for the production of 3400 AASM weapon systems for the French Air Force. The order included the development and integration of the latest-generation GPS module into the missile. Additionally, Sagem provided qualification and production engineering for the laser terminal guidance version.
Later, Sagem entered into another contract to supply an additional 750 long-range air-to-ground bombs for the French Air Force. Moreover, the guided AASM Hammer bomb was also chosen by the Royal Moroccan Air Force for the modernization program of Mirage F1 fighters.
Essentially, the primary aircraft for this precision weaponry was the French Rafale, but Western fighters such as the F-16, Mirage 2000, and Mirage F1 can serve as carriers for these hybrid bombs. To enable their use on these aircraft, the Hammer Stand Alone System (Hasas) is additionally installed. India is also integrating them into its multi-role Tejas fighters, showcasing adaptability to various aircraft.
Design and features of the AASM Hammer
The long-range aviation bomb AASM Hammer has a length of 3 m and a weight of 330 kg. It’s noteworthy that its effective radius extends over 60 km (some experts claim around 70 km) at high altitudes and 15-20 km at low altitudes, in any weather conditions. Autonomous and impervious to obstacles, this weapon system can be launched from a low altitude over diverse terrain.
This bomb-rocket hybrid operates on a “fire-and-forget” principle, meaning the projectile autonomously maneuvers toward the designated target without requiring the involvement of the aircraft pilot.
The operationally versatile missile has the capability to engage multiple targets simultaneously. It can effectively destroy stationary or moving targets with high precision. The AASM Hammer doesn’t require technical maintenance, boasts high efficiency, and comes at a relatively low cost. The French manufacturer claims a success rate of 99% for this bomb.
The AASM Hammer is a modular system consisting of a guidance kit located in the front and a Range Extension Kit (REK) positioned at the rear of the air-launched bomb. The installed guidance system can be satellite-based, infrared, or laser-guided, with the latter allowing the engagement of fast-moving targets. The acceleration system mounted at the bomb’s rear features a solid-fuel rocket engine and wings.
As mentioned earlier, the “smart” AASM Hammer air-launched bomb comprises a guidance kit and a range extension kit. The kits themselves are equipped with Mk82 warheads, including the “smart” Smart Bomb Unit (SBU)-38, SBU-64, and SBU-54. The user-friendly AASM Hammer bomb is compatible with various standard bomb casings (125, 250, 500, and 1000 kg). It can be reprogrammed even during flight.
The guidance kit is available in three different versions. The simplest variant, SBU-38 Hammer, is an all-weather air-launched bomb with INS/GPS navigation, utilizing the high-quality HRG Crystal from Sagem in the inertial part.
The second modification, SBU-54, retains INS/GPS while adding an infrared homing head (IRHH) with digital scene matching algorithms in the terminal phase. Presumably, target identification is referred to here. This not only enhances precision but, thanks to the unique design of the guidance kit, allows for attack profiles with a large angle of descent, effectively hitting targets like a building’s roof.
For engaging moving targets, a third type of guidance kit is available: here, the infrared homing head (IRHH) is replaced by a semi-active laser homing head (LHH), which with increased precision guides the munition to a target illuminated by the aircraft itself or an external laser source.
Depending on the bomb’s weight, different Range Extension Kits (REK) are applied. They are equipped with a rocket booster and four fins that deploy after launch. The version without a booster is only available for the AASM Hammer 250, turning it into a glide bomb in this case.
Versions of AASM Hammer guided bombs
Currently, two versions of the guided munition type AASM Hammer are available. The AASM Hammer 250, which has been in service for over 10 years, where the kits are installed on the Mk82 bomb or the 227 kg penetrating bomb. Additionally, there is the recently developed Hammer 1000, where the warhead consists of the BLU 109 (a bomb with enhanced bunker penetration capabilities) or the Mk84 bomb weighing 907 kg.
If AASM Hammer 250 is designed to target objects such as vehicles, buildings, or fortifications, then Hammer 1000, with its fourfold increase in explosive payload, is used for the destruction of bridges, airfields, ships, or heavily fortified targets.
In 2022, Safran announced that they are developing a new propulsion system that will significantly increase the flight range. Currently, the range is from 50 to 70 km, with the latter achieved when launched from a high altitude of around 15,000 meters. However, the developers intend to substantially increase this distance to 150-200 km, effectively doubling or tripling the current range.
The Hammer 250 is currently in use by the Air Forces of Croatia, Egypt, India, Morocco, and Qatar. This hybrid bomb-rocket is also part of the arsenal of the French Air Force. Long-range bombs are launched from integrated fighter jets such as Rafale F4, Mirage 2000, and Mirage F1. The French are also the sole users of the guided aviation bomb Hammer 1000, integrated with the Rafale fighter upgraded to the F4.1 standard. The UAE Air Force is set to receive Rafale F4 from 2027, potentially becoming the second operator of this bomb. Now, these bombs are expected to be part of the arsenal of the Ukrainian Air Force.
AASM Hammer on Su-24M or MiG-29 MU1?
This question arose instantly after the announcement of the transfer of AASM Hammer to the Ukrainian Air Force. Because information is only available about the use of this weapon on Western fighters – French Rafale and American F-16. French Mirage 2000 and Mirage F1 are also frequently mentioned, but we don’t have these aircraft in service yet.
Talks about F-16 have been ongoing for a long time, but there is still no clarity. The only options remaining are the Soviet Su-24M or MiG-29 MU1. However, our engineers have excellent experience in upgrading these aircraft for Storm Shadow/SCALP, which can successfully attack advanced positions and the enemy’s rear.
But I have great hope that finally, in the Ukrainian sky, we will indeed see the renowned F-16, which we have been eagerly awaiting, to be frank. It would be a real joy, of course, to also see the French Rafale, which is best integrated with the “smart” long-range AASM Hammer aviation bombs.
In the current conditions of fierce battles with occupiers, every precision munition, every combat vehicle, every air defense system, and every guided missile are extremely crucial to us. Therefore, we sincerely want to thank our Western friends and partners for their assistance and support. There is no escape for the aggressors from retribution. Glory to Ukraine! Death to the enemies! Glory to the Armed Forces of Ukraine!