Navy Awards Boeing $23 Million for Laser JDAM

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Laser JDAM destroys a target during testing at the China Lake Naval Weapons Station, Calif. in August. 2008 Photo: NAWCWD
Laser JDAM destroys a target during testing at the China Lake Naval Weapons Station, Calif. in August. 2008 Photo: NAWCWD

The US Navy recently awarded Boeing $23 million on the first full-rate production contract for the Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (Laser JDAM), after successfully completing integrated test. Under the modified contract, Boeing will deliver 2,384 precision laser guided sets by February 2014. Previous contracts awarded by the Navy were three Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) order amounting about 2,500 kits. The sets will be available for field weapons assembly, expanding the capability of basic JDAM tail kits, by providing a dual-mode, Global Positioning System aided Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS) and laser guided weapon.

When employed, these weapons have proven highly accurate and can be delivered in any flyable weather. JDAM can be launched from more than 15 miles from the target with updates from GPS satellites to help guide the weapon to the target. Laser JDAM has been integrated with the GBU-38. Follow-on integration with the GBU-31 and GBU-32 is planned. The U.S. Navy’s first Laser JDAMs were delivered in October 2008. In March 2010, the Navy selected Laser JDAM to satisfy its Direct Attack Moving Target Capability (DAMTC) requirement.

The Air Force has been using the laser JDAM since its combat debut in Iraq, 2008. The Marine Corps VMA-513 in  Kandahar, Afghanistan became the first land-based Marine Corps Harrier squadron to employ the weapon in combat in July 2011. “This guided bomb gives the Harrier pilots both the capability to target fixed positions, like an insurgent stronghold, with GPS technology; as well as the ability to provide precision strikes on moving enemy targets, by using the bomb as a laser-guided weapon” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rich Karren explained.

“The weapon’s modification provides the naval and joint warfighters with a lethal, interoperable and cost-effective precision strike weapon system,” said Capt. Carl Chebi, Precision Strike Weapons program manager (PMA-201), who oversees the Laser JDAM program. “It has the capability to operate more effectively in adverse weather conditions and combat ground targets in motion.”

The Laser JDAM has become part of the Department of the Navy and Air Force standard conventional armament, and combined, have more than 800 combat expenditures. Since its initial delivery, the modified weapon has accumulated more than 20,000 flight hours for the Navy and Marines. It provides the fleet tactical flexibility for use on all F/A-18 and AV-8B aircraft. It has been successfully employed in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

“Laser JDAMs are being used more and more by the U.S. Navy and Air Force,” Kristin Robertson, director, Boeing Direct Attack Weapons added. “The laser variant has been incredibly effective in attacking moving targets accurately and reliably, with minimal collateral damage. Adding the laser sensor to a conventional JDAM kit is an affordable option that’s easy for ordnance crews to install and very straightforward for pilots already familiar with JDAM.”

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