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United States to Provide Ukraine with Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB)

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United States to Provide Ukraine with Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB)

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SAAB Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB)
SAAB Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB)

Recent developments indicate a forthcoming enhancement to Ukraine’s military capabilities with the introduction of the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB). On 14 October 2023, Boeing said that the GLSDB will be delivered to Ukraine by winter. On 30 November, it was reported that the delivery had been postponed to early 2024. This advanced munition, developed jointly by Boeing and Saab, boasts a striking range of up to 150 km, surpassing the capabilities of standard rocket projectiles like the GMLRS. Equipped with satellite guidance (GPS) and an inertial navigation system, the GLSDB ensures precise targeting, enabling Ukrainian forces to effectively engage Russian logistical lines and strategic targets deep within enemy territory.

The GLSDB combines the propulsion technology of retired unguided 227 mm rockets with the precision of the GBU-39 glide bomb, weighing approximately 130 kg. Unlike traditional artillery weapons, the GLSDB offers 360-degree coverage for high and low angles of attack, flying around terrain to hit targets on the back of mountains, or circling back around to a target behind the launch vehicle. The Saab Group to allow Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) to be ground-launched from a variety of launchers and configurations. Its ability to fly non-ballistic trajectories and execute maneuvers expands the Ukrainian army’s reach, providing a mobile solution for hitting previously inaccessible targets. Moreover, the integration of navigation systems within the bomb enables deployment from various angles, enhancing operational flexibility on the battlefield.

Saab Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB).
Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB). (Photo by Saab)

According to Saab the glider will be more difficult to intercept since it can be programmed to approach a target from any direction, and from a variety of angles. Unlike conventional artillery that follows a predictable path from launch to destination, the wings and navigation ability of the GLSDB allow it to evade obstacles and anti-air defenses by steering around them, even approaching from the target’s rear. Also, because the GLSDB is a glider it has little IR signature, making it a poor target for IR homing missiles such as MANPADS. This will mark the weapon’s first export and use in combat. When originally announced it was estimated that it might take up to nine months to develop a ground-launched version but Boeing announced that it could possibly be delivered as early as spring of 2023.

Initial reports of the planned transfer of GLSDB to Ukraine surfaced in early February of the preceding year, signifying a strategic move by the White House to bolster Kyiv’s land strike capabilities. Following extensive testing, the decision to supply these munitions to Ukraine underscores their potential as a cost-effective solution for users of systems like the M270 and HIMARS. The GLSDB is being offered to Ukraine as a long distance alternative to the 300 km (190 mi) ATACMS missiles, which have a price per unit estimated to be well over $1 million. With European countries such as Poland, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia also eyeing the GLSDB, its deployment marks a significant step towards reinforcing regional defense against potential aggressors.

SAAB Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB)
Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB). (Photo by Saab)

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