MiG-29 Fulcrums Are Ukraine’s JDAM-ER Bomb Trucks

Ukraine’s smart bomb carrier has finally broken cover in the latest Western addition to the Fulcrums’ growing arsenal.

byStetson Payne|
Ukrainian Air Force
Ukrainian Air Force.


Already the primary staple of Ukrainian airpower, the country's MiG-29s have yet another role in Kyiv’s defense: precision standoff strike.

The War Zone can now confirm that some of Ukraine’s MiG-29 fleet has been modified to carry winged JDAM-ER GPS-guided glide bombs. A photo shows the winged smart bombs onboard Fulcrums on the ground, one commemorating Ukraine Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s birthday.

The message reads "Happy anniversary, Valerii Fedorovych! The best gift is dead Russians!" In late June, we first wrote about this possibility when a MiG-29 appeared bearing peculiar inboard weapons pylons.

However, the first airstrikes using the winged bombs reportedly began in early March. The above photos appear to show JDAMs attached on these inboard pylons. You can see the tapered triangular protrusions forward of the bomb's mounting point.

Ukrainian Air Force/via Twitter Ukrainian Air Force/via Twitter Ukrainian Air Force/via Twitter

The exact function of the forward protrusions of these unique pylons are unclear. But you can read about the possibilities in our previous report. Some Ukrainian MiG-29s and Su-27 Flankers were modified to carry AGM-88 HARM anti-radiaiton missiles last year, with both types flying frequent sorties in the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) role.

A pre-war Ukrainian MiG-29 with inert R-27R missiles on the inner underwing pylons. Oleg V. Belyakov/Wikimedia Commons

Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) is not a bomb itself but a kit applied to an otherwise “dumb” conventional bomb of the U.S.-made Mark 80 series. The bombs use inertial and GPS guidance to hit their static targets, becoming true fire-and-forget weapons.

JDAM-ER gives these bombs not only precision guidance but also wings, making an otherwise dumb bomb a standoff weapon with a range of dozens of miles. You can read our full report on the unique capabilities JDAM and JDAM-ER provides Ukraine in this past feature.

A graphic showing JDAM kits fitted to unguided general-purpose bombs. From top to bottom: 2,000-pound Mk 84, 2,000-pound BLU-109 penetrator warhead, 1,000-pound Mk 83/BLU-110, 500-pound Mk 82/BLU-111. On the right is the guidance and control section, mounted in the tail of the bomb body. U.S. Air Force
A JDAM-ER in flight after bomb release. Royal Australian Air Force Royal Australian Air Force

However, the JDAM-ER should not be confused or put in the same standoff category as Ukraine’s Storm Shadow cruise missiles launched from Su-24 Fencers. Unlike the Storm Shadow with its onboard turbojet engine, JDAM-ER lacks any propulsion of its own, limiting its range to how far it can glide on its wings.

The latest addition to Ukrainian MiG-29s’ growing Western armaments is indeed further evidence that even if Kyiv must wait longer for Western fourth-generation fighters of its own, Ukraine, with the help of its Western supporters, isn’t wasting any time making existing airframes more lethal.

Contact the author: stetson.payne@thewarzone.com