The French Rafale is one of the best fighter jets in the world, capable of doing many types of missions in different conditions, but what makes it a great fighter jet for air-to-surface missions? Let’s take a look at its HAMMER air-to-surface weapon system.
The development of HAMMERs started in 2000. In 2008, the INS/GPS guidance system’s first iteration went into service. The version with INS/GPS/infrared guiding system was introduced in 2011, and the version with INS/GPS guidance system went into service in 2013. The HAMMER mid-life upgrade program was the subject of research that started in 2016; it was broadened to cover the creation of new versions in 2017. Three different guiding systems are available: an auxiliary laser guidance system, an auxiliary infrared guidance system, an inertial navigation system (INS), plus a global positioning system (GPS).
]HAMMER propulsion system is fitted at the rear of the missile and consists of a solid rocket motor and four winglets for flight control.
AASM comes in several variants according to its size and the type of guidance used.
- The current model features a 250 kg bomb matched to a nose-mounted guidance kit and a rear-mounted range extension kit, containing a rocket booster and enlarged fins. There is also a 125 kg, first tested in 2009, and a proposed 1000 kg version.
- As for guidance, the basic version combines data from a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and an inertial navigation system (INS) unit through Kalman filtering, achieving a 10 metres (32 ft 10 in) circular error probability (CEP). This “decametric” all-weather variant is complemented by a “metric” day/night fair weather version which adds infrared homing (IIR) guidance that matches the target area with a target model stored in its memory for a 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) CEP.
- A third version uses laser guidance instead of IIR allowing it to hit moving targets with more precision. It was qualified in April 2013.
On October 2010, these versions were given alphanumeric designations with the INS/GPS version becoming the SBU-38 (SBU=Smart Bomb Unit), the INS/GPS/IIR version becoming the SBU-54 and the INS/GPS/SALH version becoming the SBU-64; the system as a whole was renamed Hammer to make it more appealing to export customers.
The 1000 kg version commenced testing in 2020, with inert separation trials from a Rafale. Service entry is planned for 2022.
A Rafale fighter can be armed with 6 HAMMER missiles in one sortie. It can be used in all weather conditions and operate accurately day and night with Rafale. It can strike vertically. The different guidance systems allow the HAMMER to engage targets with varying kinds like Static, moving at a maximum speed of 120 km / h, ground and sea targets, lightly shielded or well protected, etc. An advantage of HAMMERs is their full range of 25-60 km, depending on the release height and the ability to engage targets outside the pilot’s field of vision. A 1000 kg variant is under development. Its per-weapon cost is $300,000, which is very high compared to other weapons in its category. Still, its qualities make it better than others, we can say.
Another crucial characteristic of HAMMERs is that they may launch from any angle of attack, meaning that the launch is independent of the aircraft’s position, speed, or altitude (only the drop height affects the maximum range). The explosives’ enormous Launcher Acceptance Area is a result of these features. This is referred to as a location where the right circumstances allow bullets to be shot and effectively approach or strike the target. The kinematic performance of the ammo and the researcher’s skill are the main aspects influencing the LAR. LAR is the range ammunition can travel to hit a target when fired from a specific distance.
For stability and greater flight control, the bombs in all versions have a solid-fuel booster and four foldable fins in the tail section. The available warheads are the 500-pound Mk.82, the 2,000-pound Mk.84, and the 2,000-pound BLU-109. The exact target (Salvo) could potentially be attacked by numerous HAMMER simultaneously as they approach and launch from different directions (MRSI: Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact). Achieving meaningful or strategically essential goals requires this capacity.
The HAMMER’s long-range strike capability provides the pilot an excellent safety; it can fire a weapon at a reasonable distance and return without going deep into enemy territory, protecting it from enemy air defense. Current operators are France, Egypt, Qatar, Monaco and India