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'Most Innovative Defense Technology' 2008 Award Nominee

Laser JDAM GBU-54

Boeing

An established synonym for geo-location guided weapon, JDAM is commonly accepted as 'precision' type weapon. However, when utilized in asymmetric warfare, where illusive targets show up and disapear within seconds, geo-location is rarely a sufficient targeting solution. Furthermore, while the precision offered by GPS guidance could be acceptable for relatively large military targets, it is unacceptable for asymmetric warfare, since hit dispersion within its circular error point (CEP) could yield unacceptable risk of collateral damage, particularly in urban warfare. (more...)

By integrating a laser seeker on board, these combined Laser-GPS weapons benefit from both worlds – GPS guides the weapon from a stand-off launch point, into the laser designation 'basket', thus eliminating any warning about the imminent attack, and overcoming weather restrictions that previously hindered the use of laser-guided weapons. As the weapon reaches the pre-designated area it switches mode to the laser guidance for the terminal phase, homing in on laser designated target for a 'laser-sharp' strike of stationary or moving targets. The U.S. Navy envisage the weapon to provide Direct Attack Moving Target Capability (DAMTC). During tests laser JDAM weapons demonstrated accurate hits on vehicles speeding at 85 mp/h!

The first laser guided JDAM weapons have been deployed to US Air Force units in Iraq in 2008 and successfully demonstrated their performance in combat operations. The Navy is also testing the weapon and has taken delivery of initial production units in November 08. The Navy is expecting to field them soon with AV-8Bs and F/A-18C/D.

Reasons for Recommendation:

The Laser JDAM program demonstrates how effective integration of different technologies can upgrade a weapons, into much more effective capability. This relatively low cost program ($28 million for the modification of 600 JDAM kits) could grow to enhance the entire JDAM inventory worldwide. Boeing anticipates production volumes exceeding 50,000 units supporting domestic and international orders. Germany has already selected the kit and Israel could be next. The same concept could also be introduced to the Small Diameter Bomb (GBU-39).

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