Discover the Best of the AASM HAMMER Weapon System

The Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM), a Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range (HAMMER) Weapon System, stands as a precision-guided munition meticulously developed by the esteemed French company Safran Electronics & Defense. Discover the best of the AASM HAMMER Weapon System, seamlessly blending the attributes of a guidance kit with a range extension kit, thereby elevating the operational capacities of air-to-ground missiles. Renowned for its adaptability, this system integrates seamlessly with various aircraft configurations such as the French Mirage 2000D, Rafale, and the Indian-origin Tejas.

The modular design of HAMMER allows it to be tailored to diverse mission requirements, presenting military forces with a versatile and efficient solution for precision strikes. Its smartly enhanced range and agility establish it as a formidable asset in contemporary aerial warfare, augmenting the precision and efficacy of air-to-ground missions.

It leverages inertial navigation, GPS, and infrared homing technologies to ensure precise targeting and engagement of both stationary and moving targets. Its precise lethality makes this bomb the first choice for five countries’ air forces as of 2023.

Photo Credit_ Safran / with 4 AASM HAMMER
Photo Credit: Safran / Discover the best of the AASM HAMMER Weapon System, featuring four units with 2×2 configurations equipped on the Dassault Rafale.

Development of the AASM HAMMER Weapon System

The development of the AASM HAMMER Weapon System aimed to create a versatile and precise air-to-ground munition for the French military and allied forces. Commencing in 1997, the Délégation Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), the French defense procurement agency, initiated an international competition for the design of the weapon.

In 2000, SAGEM was awarded a contract for an initial lot of AASM GPS/INS bomb kits, anticipated for delivery from 2004 and deployment the subsequent year. The foundational version comprises a 250-kilogram (550 lb) bomb with a hybrid inertial navigation system (INS) / Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance. Additional variants incorporate infrared homing or laser guidance to enhance accuracy, and there are also versions with 125-kilogram (276 lb), 500-kilogram (1,100 lb), or 1,000-kilogram (2,200 lb) bomb bodies.

Hammer units with 2×2 configurations

In 2007, the AASM officially entered into operational service with both the French Air Force and Naval Aviation, being deployed on aircraft such as the Dassault Rafale and Mirage 2000. Subsequently, in 2011, the AASM underwent a nomenclature change and was designated as HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range).

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It is an all-weather intelligent air-to-surface weapon with an extended stand-off capacity. The AASM Hammer establishes groundbreaking benchmarks in Close Air Support missions and deep strike missions, showcasing its versatile family of warheads and guidance kits. The AASM includes a frontal guidance kit compatible with dumb bombs and a rear-mounted range extension kit. The weapon’s modular design allows for the incorporation of various guidance systems and bombs.

Design of the AASM HAMMER Weapon System

The design of the AASM HAMMER System encompasses several essential features contributing to its effectiveness in air-to-ground missions. It features a modular structure, facilitating seamless integration with diverse aircraft and armament configurations. This modularity significantly improves its versatility and adaptability to various mission profiles.

Guidance Systems: The weapon system incorporates sophisticated guidance technologies, including inertial navigation, GPS, and infrared homing systems. These systems collaborate to deliver precise targeting capabilities, facilitating accurate strikes against both stationary and moving targets. The GPS/INS + IIR guided version successfully completed its qualification tests on July 9, 2008, after undergoing three firings at the DGA’s missile test range in Biscarosse. Furthermore, the 250 kg IR version executed a night launch from a Rafale fighter-bomber at DGA’s Biscarosse test range in December 2010.

Different Hammer guidance kit configurations include the Hybrid inertial/GPS in decametric, all-weather version, and the hybrid inertial/GPS + infrared homing or SALH (Semi-Active Laser Homing) in the metric day/night version.

Aerodynamics and Maneuverability: The design likely emphasizes aerodynamics and maneuverability, enabling the AASM HAMMER to navigate complex airspace and execute agile maneuvers. This enhances its capability to evade enemy defenses and improves overall mission success. According to Safran Electronics & Defense, the weapon underwent successful testing at a range exceeding 50 km from the target, hitting it within a one-meter Circular Error Probable (CEP). On January 27, 2009, a 125 kg version was successfully test-fired, and a laser-guided variant was air-launched for the first time on June 17, 2010.

Photo Credit: SAFRAN / A fantastic image shows the Dassault Rafale fully loaded with munitions, including three fuel tanks and two Meteor AAMs under the rear fuselage. Six 250kg Hammers in a 3×3 configuration are accompanied by four MICA AAMs on its end pylons and wingtips.

Warhead: The AASM HAMMER is furnished with a precision-strike-appropriate warhead. The design likely fine-tunes the warhead for various target types, ensuring an effective and customized impact on the intended objective. According to Safran, it is stated as “One System To Handle All Strike Missions.” The system is compatible with different standard bomb bodies (125, 250, 500, and 1000 kg). Autonomously functioning and resistant to jamming, this weapon system can be launched from low altitudes and over rough terrain.

Crafted with a focus on stand-off range firing and simultaneous multi-target attack capability, the AASM HAMMER is fortified with a fire-and-forget feature, rendering it highly reliable in adverse conditions. Supplementary variants enhance accuracy through the integration of infrared homing or laser guidance. These variations are available with bomb bodies weighing 125 kilograms (276 pounds), 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds), or 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds).

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Photo Credit: SAFRAN / One of the Hammers is being released during the tests of its effectiveness from Rafale

Variants of the AASM HAMMER System

The AASM comes in several variants based on its size and the type of guidance employed. The current model comprises a 250 kg bomb paired with a nose-mounted guidance kit and a rear-mounted range extension kit, featuring a rocket booster and enlarged fins.

Additionally, versions with 125 kg, 500 kg, and 1000 kg capacities have been developed. These variants were assigned alphanumeric designations, with the INS/GPS version designated as SBU-38 (Smart Bomb Unit), the INS/GPS/IIR version as SBU-54, and the INS/GPS/SALH version as SBU-64. To enhance its appeal to export customers, the entire system was renamed Hammer.

Photo Credit: SAFRAN
An Overview of the Cost of the AASM HAMMER System

The cost of integrating the AASM HAMMER with different aircraft platforms may vary, contingent on the complexity of the integration process. The development and incorporation of upgrades or various variants can influence the overall system cost. The total cost of the AASM program, covering development costs and the delivery of 2348 kits, amounts to €846 million.

On this basis, the per-weapon cost is $300,000, approximately twelve times the cost of the comparable American JDAM. It’s worth noting that the JDAM has been manufactured in significantly larger quantities (~250,000 kits), and an expectation of a substantial reduction in the price of the French munition could be reasonable with larger contracts and economies of scale. In the 2012 defense budget presented to the Senate, the project was reported to have cost €592.2 million (~US$800 million) with a unit cost of €164,000 or €252,000, including development costs.

Photo Credit: Safran / Hammer configurations include four variants: 125 kg, 250 kg, 500 kg, and 1000 kg
International Operators of the AASM HAMMER

Currently, an impressive roster of five countries, including France, Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, and India, operates the formidable weapon. This proliferation underscores the widespread recognition of its power and effectiveness in modern warfare. Its deployment spans nations, showcasing its versatility and adaptability in diverse operational contexts.

India placed an order for large numbers of the Hammer in September 2020 for its fighter aircraft, such as Rafale, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, and Tejas as well.

This widespread adoption and proliferation of the weapon underscore the global acknowledgment of its formidable power and effectiveness in modern warfare. The system’s deployment not only showcases its versatility and adaptability but also its pivotal role in various operational contexts.

Photo Credit: SAFRAN

AASM HAMMER Specifications

  • Length: Between 5 to 10 ft ( as per warhead size )
  • Weight:  Depends on Warhead size plus approx 90 kg of a guidance kit weight
  • Warhead:  125, 250, 500 and 1000 kg
  • Range:  50 to 70 km at high altitude and 15 km at low altitude
  • Engine:  Solid rocket motor
  • Guidance: Hybrid inertial/GPS in decametric, all-weather version, and hybrid inertial/GPS + infrared homing or SALH (Semi-Active Laser Homing) in metric day/night version
  • Accuracy:  Within 1 to 10-meter CEP
  • Launch Platform:  Mirage 2000D, Rafale & Tejas
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Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023
Photo Credit: AirPra@Aero India 2023

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In conclusion, the AASM HAMMER Weapon System stands as a testament to advancements in precision-guided munitions, epitomizing the cutting-edge capabilities of modern military technology. Developed by Safran Electronics & Defense, its modular design, advanced guidance systems, and extended range contribute to its adaptability and effectiveness in diverse air-to-ground missions.

The weapon system’s evolution likely includes variants tailored for specific roles, showcasing its versatility and response to evolving threat landscapes. While specific cost details and international operators may be guarded due to the nature of military operations, ongoing developments in the AASM HAMMER system underscore its significance on the global defense stage.

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