GLSDB product in flight
Over the past months, the Kyiv regime has been begging long-range missile systems from foreign partners - and so far has not succeeded in this. The other day it became known that the United States is still not going to transfer operational-tactical missiles, but is considering the possibility of supplying GLSDB ammunition. At the same time, immediate loading of such weapons impossible, and it will have to wait several months.
The possible delivery of GLSDB missiles to Ukraine on November 28 was reported by the American edition of Reuters. Through his own channels, he managed to obtain documents from one of the organizations involved in the preparation of such plans. In addition, comments were received from unnamed sources familiar with the situation. However, officials declined to comment.
Boeing is alleged to have recently proposed to the Pentagon that they start producing GLSDB munitions and begin supplying them to the Kyiv regime. It is assumed that such weapons will improve the strike capabilities of Ukrainian formations and allow them to solve combat missions that are inaccessible to existing systems.
It should be noted that GLSDB products have so far been tested and have not yet entered mass production. Nevertheless, the Boeing company believes that it can arrange their production in the shortest possible time. With the soonest receipt of the contract, the first serial products will roll off the assembly line next spring. In this case, Ukraine will be able to become the first recipient of such weapons, ahead of even the United States.
The simplicity of the design of the new ammunition will contribute to the rapid launch of production. Products for Ukraine are proposed to be assembled from available components, in large quantities available in American warehouses. This will make it possible to obtain the necessary rates of production and reduce the cost of one rocket to $40, while at the same time reducing the overall cost of aid.
First test run
However, not everything is so simple. The development company points to the presence of difficulties and problems in the field of industrial cooperation and logistics, which can increase production times and negatively affect the price of products. In this regard, Boeing offers a new "economical" approach to production.
So, it is necessary to abandon the traditional search for a contractor capable of producing the cheapest products. In addition, the work of at least six subcontractors responsible for the supply of various components of the product should be accelerated.
Boeing's proposal to supply GLSDB products to Ukraine is still under consideration, and its prospects are unknown. At the same time, the future of such ammunition, which has not yet been able to reach the series and enter service with any army, remains in question.
To launch from the ground
The GLSDB (Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb) project has been developed by Boeing and Saab since 2014. Its goal was to create a new ammunition for the ground forces based on available products in service with the United States.
The M26 rocket from the M270 and M142 MLRS was taken as the basis for the GLSDB. At the time of the creation of the project, these ammunition were removed from service and sent to warehouses. At the suggestion of Boeing and Saab, they could be used in the production of new weapons. The stock head of the original M26 was removed to accommodate the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb.
The resulting product passed the first tests in 2015. Launches were carried out from a ground installation for various training purposes. As the tests continued, all the main characteristics were checked and new features were worked out. So, the possibility of attacking stationary and moving targets at ranges of 100-130 km was shown, incl. in different directions relative to the launch trajectory.
The development companies highly appreciated the GLSDB system and predicted a great future for it. However, despite all the successes in testing and the characteristics shown, this development has not yet found its customer. The US Army does not show much interest, and Boeing has to look for other customers. This time, they are trying to promote new weapons in the context of assistance to Ukraine. Whether this will succeed is unknown.
bomb on a rocket
The GLSDB ammunition is actually a rocket for a serial MLRS with a special warhead. This item is approx. 4 m with a maximum diameter of 227 mm and a mass of more than 300 kg. The tail section of such a rocket is the engine compartment of the M26 projectile with a standard solid propellant charge. With the help of a special adapter, a GBU-39 bomb is installed on the compartment.
Aviation the GBU-39 SDB bomb is small in size and has a limited weight. Its length is 1,8 m, the maximum diameter in the transport position (with the wing folded) is 190 mm. Weight - less than 130 kg with a 93-kg warhead. The bomb is made in a streamlined elongated body. On top of it there is a casing containing a folding wing. In the tail are the rudders that are laid out in flight.
Several modifications of the bomb with different means of guidance have been developed. In all cases, inertial and satellite navigation is used, allowing the ammunition to fly to a given area and hit a target with known coordinates. There is also a semi-active laser seeker. Both guidance options give QUO no more than a few meters.
GBU-39 bombs folded under the bottom of the carrier aircraft
The SDB bomb can carry two types of warheads of the same mass. The first is high-explosive fragmentation with 16 kg of explosive and a strong hull for breaking through reinforced concrete fortifications. There is also a simple high-explosive fragmentation with a 62-kg charge.
The GLSDB ammunition is based on the M26 missile, which determines how it is launched. It is compatible with serial American MLRS M270 and M142. In addition, the development of a special mobile launcher was reported, but it has not yet been shown.
The principle of operation of GLSDB is quite simple. The calculation enters the necessary data into the memory of the product, after which it is launched. The rocket part of the ammunition provides acceleration to high supersonic speed and rise to a great height. Then the "combat stage" in the form of a bomb is separated from the engine and carries out an independent flight to the target - like a regular GBU-39 dropped by an aircraft.
While promoting their development, Boeing and Saab note its characteristic advantages. First of all, the ease of production and low cost due to the use of available components are mentioned. In addition, the resulting ammunition is compatible with existing launchers. It was also reported about the development of new combat vehicles.
The combat capabilities of the GLSDB missile are determined mainly by the use of the GBU-39 SDB bomb. Despite the new launch method, it retains all its features and main characteristics. The bomb is able to independently fly to the designated target and hit it with sufficient accuracy. Unlike rockets or ballistic missiles, the bomb is capable of active maneuvering. In particular, during the tests, the possibility of its flight with a 180-degree turn and hitting the target behind the launch position was shown.
Depending on the combat equipment, the GBU-39 is capable of hitting different targets. These can be accumulations of manpower or unprotected equipment, as well as various structures, incl. fortified. In particular, the developers of the bomb demonstrated the defeat of the reinforced concrete shelter for aircraft.
SDB swoops down on target
However, such a system has disadvantages. So, as part of the GLSDB, engines from M26 missiles, which have been decommissioned for a long time, are used. It is possible that not all such products are still suitable for use and are able to give the required characteristics. At the same time, the development of an improved rocket with a different engine has not yet been reported.
The reduced dimensions and weight of the bomb severely limited its combat load and reduced the possible impact on the target. So, only 16 kg of explosives were placed in the penetrating warhead, which is not enough to destroy protected objects. A high-explosive fragmentation warhead with a heavier charge, in turn, has limited effectiveness when attacking protected targets.
The ability of the GBU-39 SDB product to break through enemy air defenses raises questions. As it turned out in recent months, modern air defense systems are quite capable of detecting and hitting a variety of weapons, incl. the most difficult of these goals. Apparently, they will be able to fight the GLSDB system as well. In addition, launching and accelerating with the help of a rocket stage unmasks the launch position, which leads to a high risk of retaliation.
A promising GLSDB weapon system based on existing samples has been tested since 2015 and confirmed the design characteristics. However, the Pentagon is in no hurry to adopt it and order serial products. Perhaps, for one reason or another, he is not at all interested in obtaining such a weapon.
Having not received an order from the United States, Boeing and Saab are trying to promote their development in the context of assistance to Ukraine. However, even in this case, the prospects for the GLSDB product remain uncertain. It is not clear whether the American leadership will buy systems for an ally that his own army does not have. However, such a scenario cannot yet be ruled out - and Ukraine will again have to become a testing ground for testing foreign weapons.