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Ukraine modifies Mig-29 fighters jet to delivers western bombs.

Due to the lack of Western-designed fighter-bombers like the F-16, the Ukrainian Air Force had to find solutions to allow its Soviet-era MiG-29 "Fulcrum", Su-27 "Flanker", and Su-24 "Fencer" aircraft to carry certain munitions supplied by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This was not always straightforward, as the electronic systems of these aircraft are outdated.
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Modified Mig-29 with JDAM-ER smart bombs ( left)  Modified Mig-29 with French AASM ( top-right), British-made paveway IV smart bomb ( bottom right)   (Picture source: X/Osinttechnical )

In 2022, to enable the MiG-29 to use the American AGM-88 HARM [High-speed, Anti-Radiation Missile], designed to destroy enemy radars, the solution involved mounting the LAU-118/A pylon, specific to this missile, onto a standard pylon, adding an external battery for power, and connecting it all to the radar sensor in the cockpit with a cable. The same modification was done for the Su-27 "Flanker."

Besides the AGM-88 HARM, the Ukrainian Air Force also has JDAM-ER [Joint Direct Attack Munition], which are Mk82 bombs equipped with an inertial navigation system [INS] guidance system coupled with a GPS receiver, allowing them to be dropped from a safe distance.

This NATO-standard pylon serves, as we can see, for NATO weapons including the JDAM-ER. JDAM kits, in production since 1998, can transform unguided free-fall bombs into all-weather precision-guided smart weapons. They are currently used by the US Air Force (USAF), the US Navy, and the militaries of over 26 other countries. The JDAM-ER was developed jointly by Boeing and the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO). The advanced bomb guidance kit integrates a set of low-cost wings to triple the JDAM's safety range to over 72 km. Bloomberg reported in February 2023 that the United States was supplying JDAM-ER weapon systems to Ukraine as part of their additional $1.85 billion military aid announced in December 2022. An anti-jammer seeker head has been provided by the Americans, allowing the JDAM-ER to lock onto Russian GPS jammers and destroy them.

Moreover, the transfer of Polish and Slovak MiG-29s, which had been upgraded to NATO standards [avionics, MIL-std-1533B data bus, Mark XIIA IFF system, etc.], likely made it easier for Ukrainian technicians to extend these installations to the fleet. In any case, they had to design a specific pylon, details of which have not been disclosed, to deploy the JDAM-ER.

Presumably, this pylon can also be used to allow Ukrainian MiG-29s to carry the AASM "Hammer" Air-to-Ground Modular Weapons delivered by France. This was the conclusion reached by the Ukrainian specialized site Defense Express, after examining a photograph showing, for the first time, a MiG-29 armed with an A2SM. For the record, France announced it would deliver 50 A2SMs per month to Ukraine, in addition to about forty additional SCALP EG cruise missiles.

Like the JDAM-ER, the A2SM consists of a guidance kit and a "range augmentation" kit, mounted on the body of a bomb, typically 250 kg. They allow striking a target with high precision from a safe distance, regardless of weather conditions. Three versions are available: INS/GPS [hybrid inertial GPS guidance], INS/GPS/IR [inertial/GPS guidance with terminal infrared imager guidance], and INS/GPS Laser [inertial/GPS guidance with terminal laser guidance, for mobile targets].

The first possible use of an A2SM by the Ukrainian Air Force was reported on March 3, 2024, after a strike against Russian positions in the Avdiivka region. This week, it was reported that AASMs were also used to destroy the "Mekhanik Pogodine," a tanker that had run aground on the southern bank of the Dnieper River and was presumably serving as a command and observation post for Russian forces.

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