Air Weapons: December 16, 2004


Although available for service in 1999, the American AGM-154 JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) smart bomb has only been bought in small quantities. The U.S. Navy just ordered 216 of the AGM-154A version, for $223,000 each. Less than 2,000 of all versions of JSOW have been ordered so far, although in the long run, the Department of Defense wants to buy 24,000. JSOW is basically a smart bomb with wings. That enables it to glide up to 70 kilometers from the aircraft dropping it to a target on the ground. Range is about 25 kilometers if dropped from low altitude. JSOW also contains more elaborate fins and software that enables it to follow a specific route. Like the wingless JDAM smart bomb, JSOW uses GPS and inertial guidance (as a backup) to find its target. Like JDAM, JSOW will hit within 30 feet of its aiming point. Ultimately, the Department of Defense wants to buy 11,800 AGM-154A, which carries 145 bomblets that attack personnel and vehicles. There will be 4,200 of the AGM-154B bought, each containing six SADARM bomblets that seek out and destroy armored vehicles in an area 300 by 600 meters. This one costs $490,000 each. The AGM-154C carries 794 pound warhead that can penetrate concrete or earth and detonate the high explosives it carries. Plans are to buy 7,800 of them. This model contains a video link that allows for hitting very small targets (like going through a window) and costs $720,000 each. Each JSOW weighs 1,100-1,500 pounds, depending on type. 

Not a lot of JSOWs have been bought because there is not a lot of demand for them. The purpose of a stand off weapon is to keep the aircraft away from enemy anti-aircraft defenses (mainly missiles.) Some JSOW have been used in Iraq (between 1999 and 2003) and Afghanistan (2001.) But in most cases, the much cheaper JDAM (about $20,000 each) does the job just as well. But against a better equipped foe, like China, Syria, Iran or North Korea, JSOW would be more useful. 


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