May 3, 2011: It was recently reported that France was using 300 kg (660 pound) concrete filled bombs to hit targets in Libya. Using laser guidance, it's possible to hit and destroy a target directly with these concrete bombs, while greatly reducing casualties to any nearby civilians. The targets are usually Libyan armored vehicles or truck mounted rocket launchers.
Concrete filled smart bombs (laser guided or JDAM) are nothing new. They were used in Iraq starting in 2005, and were first used in the 1990s to destroy anti-aircraft guns, radars and missiles that Saddam Hussein placed in residential areas. He believed that the Americans would not attack these weapons, for fear of hurting nearby civilians. But it turned out that a laser, or satellite (JDAM) guided concrete smart bomb could take out the air-defense weapons without hurting nearby civilians. The American concrete bombs came in various sizes (500, 1,000 and 2,000 pounds), but the 227 kg (500 pound) JDAM (introduced in 2005) became a favorite when a concrete version was required. In Iraq, for example, two small bridges near the Syrian border were seen being used by terrorists to bring in people and weapons. There was no need to completely destroy the bridges (which might take months, or longer, to replace), because the terrorists were slowly being chased from the area. But a concrete bomb on each bridge damaged the structures enough so that they could not be used, but not so much that they could not be repaired in a week or two. Concrete bombs are still used against terrorist targets in residential areas, where the bomb can reach the terrorists before police or ground troops can. It's all a case of a seemingly off-the-wall weapon idea being, not a joke, but actually quite useful.
The French used a French made smart bomb technology to guide their concrete bombs. This weapon, first used in combat (in Afghanistan) three years ago, is the AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, or air-to-ground modular weapon). Like the U.S. JDAM, it is a GPS kit, attached to a 250 kilogram (550 pound) bomb, and delivers the bomb within 10 meters (30 feet) of the aim point. This kit costs $125,000 each (JDAM costs 75 percent less, but that's because many more JDAMs were purchased, thus spreading development cost over more weapons). The AASM program cost was over $630 million. The AASM entered service in 2006.
There is a second version of AASM, with an infrared (heat sensing) imaging system, that increases accuracy to within one meter (3.1 feet) of the aim point. This kit costs $171,000 each, and is comparable to U.S. laser guided bomb kits (which cost about $55,000 each.) There are also kits for 275 pound and 1100 pound bombs.
The AASM has been very accurate and reliable in Afghanistan and Libya.