June 5, 2013:
Because of the need to hit rapidly moving targets in Mali (Islamic terrorists speeding away in trucks or cars) France sped up the development of their new laser guidance feature for their SBU-64 Hammer smart bomb kit. Now pilots can hit targets moving up to 80 kilometers an hour, which is twice the speed the laser guided Hammer could previously handle.
SBU-64 is a smart bomb kit that can be added to a 250 kg (550 pound) dumb bomb. The kit includes GPS guidance and wings, which provide over 50 kilometers of guided gliding before hitting the target. The SBU-64 enables the pilot or weapons officers to more precisely guide a bomb (using laser guidance) that has arrived at GPS coordinates programmed into the guidance kit memory. This is useful if you don’t have a precise location of a target. This is a big selling point for the GPS/Laser version of the bomb.
Four years ago France ordered 3,400 of the new AASM series of bomb kits from manufacturer Sagem. While AASM only fits 250 kg bombs (to produce the SBU-64), versions for 125,500 and 1,000 kg bombs are in development. Three years ago a new AASM software upgrade was successfully tested, which allowed a 250 kg bomb to hit the target directly from above. Previously, laser and GPS guided bombs have all come in at the target horizontally. By coming in vertically collateral damage, to nearby structures occupied by civilians, is limited. Two years ago the infrared (night vision) version of the SBU-64 entered service. Last year a GPS/laser version of SUB-64 will become available. SBU-64 is for sale to qualified export customers. France has also used its smart bombs successfully in Afghanistan and Libya and this is a major selling point. France is currently adapting its AASM SBU-64 Hammer series of smart bombs to operate from American F-16 jets. This will expand the number of potential customers as currently the SBU-64 only operates from French made warplanes.
France is seeking to grab a share of the smart bomb market by developing new features for its bombs, while remaining competitive with features already in American smart bombs. For example, an AASM with laser guidance will be available next year.