Boeing and Australia industry partner Ferra Engineering signed a Memorandum of Understanding to continue production of Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM ER) wing kits. The agreement also includes the intent to explore applications for Powered JDAM — a long-range, low-cost and mass-producible JDAM derivative capable of travelling upwards of 300 nautical miles. Brisbane-based Ferra is Boeing’s global supplier of the 500-pound JDAM ER wing kits. Under the memorandum, the partnership will be extended through 2028. The partnership aligns with the Australian Defence Force’s commitment to enhance sovereign weapons capability under the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance (GWEO) Enterprise and aligns with the AUKUS security partnership goal of advancing trilateral defence capabilities.
“The RAAF was Boeing’s first JDAM ER customer and we have partnered with Boeing for 12 years to produce this critical global defence capability. This assures our production pipeline and paves the way for continued innovation, such as Powered JDAM. The expanded partnership further strengthens Australian industry’s capacity to contribute to the future needs of the Australian Defence Force and support its priorities to deter aggression and defend our country and our allies in the rapidly evolving threat environment,” said Aaron Thompson, managing director of Ferra Engineering.
“This project is a great example of Australian industry working with Defence to the great benefit of one of our key allies, the United States,” Chief of Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance, Air Marshal Leon Phillips said.
“These wing kits developed by Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group and produced for Boeing by Ferra in collaboration with U.S partners are a success story for Australian industry. Our participation in Defence’s Global Supply Chain (GSC) Program helped enable the partnership on JDAM ER wing kits and now opportunities for Powered JDAM. Powered JDAM will exponentially increase the effective range of the munition, and alongside the JDAM ER, will effectively and affordably meet a variety of defence needs around the world,” said Bob Ciesla, vice president of Boeing Precision Engagement Systems.
The Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is a guidance kit that converts unguided bombs, or “dumb bombs”, into all-weather precision-guided munitions. JDAM-equipped bombs are guided by an integrated inertial guidance system coupled to a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, giving them a published range of up to 15 nautical miles (28 km). JDAM-equipped bombs range from 500 to 2,000 pounds (230 to 910 kg). The JDAM’s guidance system was jointly developed by the United States Air Force and United States Navy, hence the “joint” in JDAM. When installed on a bomb, the JDAM kit is given a GBU (Guided Bomb Unit) identifier, superseding the Mark 80 or BLU (Bomb, Live Unit) nomenclature of the bomb to which it is attached. The JDAM was meant to improve upon laser-guided bomb and imaging infrared technology, which can be hindered by bad ground and weather conditions. Laser seekers are now being fitted to some JDAMs.
In 2009, Boeing announced that it will jointly develop the Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM-ER) 2,000 lb (910 kg) version with South Korea. The wing kit will triple the range of JDAM to 80 kilometres (50 mi) for the same accuracy, and will cost $10,000 per unit. The wing kits of Australia’s JDAM-ER weapons will be built by Ferra Engineering. First tests were to be conducted in 2013 with production orders in 2015. In 2010, Boeing proposed adding a jet engine tailkit to the JDAM-ER for 10 times greater range. The U.S. Air Force initially showed no interest in the concept, but by 2020 Boeing believed the service had regained interest in acquiring low-cost cruise missiles. The JDAM-ER combines a 500 lb bomb with a wing kit and a propulsion module, giving it the range of more sophisticated missiles through a low-cost engine while being cheaper though not having a stealthy shape or the ability to conduct low-altitude flights.