Air Force: Ukraine starts using US-made “smart bombs” kits
Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat confirmed on March 31 that Ukraine was already using U.S.-made Joint Direct Attack Munition-Extended Range (JDAM-ER) guided kits for aerial bombs.
JDAMs are wing kits that convert simple free-falling bombs into guided ammunition, improving accuracy thanks to a GPS helping the bomb adjust its course while approaching the target.
Once dropped, the bomb deploys wings, allowing it to glide up to 72 kilometers, tripling the range of the original weapon, according to Bloomberg.
U.S. Air Force Gen. James Hecker, cited by the War Zone, said the kits had been delivered to Ukraine in February as part of a $1.85 billion package announced on Dec. 21.
Ukraine also urgently needs fourth-generation modern fighter jets, Ihnat said on March 29.
Speaking on national television, Ihnat explained that the Soviet MiG-29 fighter jets supplied by Poland and Slovakia were insufficient to defend Ukrainian territory on air, land, and sea.
"The (American) F-16 or another multi-role aircraft of the same type will help," Ihnat added.
Recognizing that the aircraft transfer is a complicated and timely process, Ihnat stressed that such measures must be initiated now.
Ihnat confirmed on March 6 that Russia has used new 1.5-ton UPAB-1500B gliding bombs for the first time, designed to hit highly-protected objects at a range of up to 40 kilometers against Ukraine.
He emphasized that Ukraine needed to receive modern fighting jets, such as F-16s, to “counter this threat, to protect our cities and villages.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a Senate hearing on March 28 that modern fighter jets would not help Ukraine "at this stage of the war" given that providing them was an 18-month-long process.
However, Austin did not entirely rule out providing F-16s or other fourth-generation aircraft to Ukraine at some point in the future. He also stressed that the current priority for the Ukrainian military was long-range air defense.
Critics argue that allies' reluctance to supply F-16 fighters and long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine will prevent Kyiv from launching a significant counteroffensive and liberating Ukrainian territory.