At several points over the past 11 months, the delivery of new weapons systems from the US and its allies has changed the course of the conflict in Ukraine. First there were the British NLAWs and US Javelin anti-tank weapons, both of which helped stopped columns of Russian tanks from reaching Kyiv. Later, the introduction of HIMARS mobile artillery played a role in Ukraine’s ability to keep Russia at bay and to reclaim territory in the east.

The next big change could come with the introduction of modern German, British and US tanks which several countries have promised to deliver fairly soon. But today, the US announced another new weapon system which could also be a game changer. These ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB) have a range of up to 95 miles and can be launched with HIMARS or other artillery systems.

Ukraine will receive ground-launched, small diameter bombs (GLSDB) as part of a new $2.17 billion aid package announced by the Biden administration. The munitions have a range of roughly 95 miles, nearly twice the capability previously provided by the U.S. government, which has until now refused to supply such weapons for fear that Ukrainian forces will use them to strike inside Russia. This will enable them instead to target command posts, ammunition depots and other Russian military facilities in occupied parts of Ukraine.

Ukrainian commanders have said that, while their troops have proved effective at destroying such targets, Russia has adapted by moving its important infrastructure outside the range of U.S.-provided rocket artillery vehicles, like the HIMARS and M270, necessitating greater reach. The small diameter bombs were designed to be fired from aircraft but have been adapted with rocket motors to launch from such systems. They can strike their intended targets within the radius of a car tire, according to Saab, which developed the program with Boeing.

A video Boeing put out in 2015 touted the capabilities of what was then a new system. As you can see from the animation in the clip below, these bombs have the ability to launch in any direction and make turns in order to come at a target from whatever angle is most advantageous.

As you’ve probably heard, Ukraine has been asking for more jets and so far the US and other countries have said no to that request. But these bombs are essentially air launched missiles without the airplanes.

The one catch here is that these weapons will apparently come from manufacturers not from US stockpiles, which means it could be quite a few months before these are delivered. Unless something changes, they won’t play a role in the attack that Russia seems to be planning for the spring. But when they do arrive later this year, they will make it possible for Ukraine to strike targets as far away as Crimea as well as other occupied parts of Ukraine.

Ukraine needs the longer-range systems to target supply arteries from Russia to Ukrainian territory and sites from which Russia has been launching Iranian-made drones, according to retired Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. Army Europe.

“I’m talking about giving the Ukrainians the ability to make Crimea untenable, and they do that with longer-range systems that can target the big Russian logistics hubs on the northern part of Crimea, the navy base in Sevastopol and the dozens of other places in Crimea that are airfields or ammunition storage or headquarters,” Hodges told Defense News last month.

“[Ukrainian forces] know where these are, they just can’t reach them. We have in effect created sanctuary for the Russian by limiting weapons that we give to Ukraine,” Hodges said of the U.S.

Of course timetables can change and this one might as well depending on what Russia does in the next couple months.

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