Ukraine has allegedly acquired or is in the process of acquiring the first shipment of long-range ground-launched small-diameter bombs, commonly referred to as GLSDBs, intended for deployment against Russia.
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This development has generated widespread interest among several nations seeking to evaluate the efficacy of this munition in modern warfare. The significance of this acquisition lies in the fact that, to date, no country, including the United States, possesses these bombs. They have never been used in a war.
The deployment of GLSDBs in the conflict in Ukraine will not only shape the dynamics of the ongoing war against Russia but will eventually reach Taiwan to counter China.
Taiwan has emerged as a potential customer for this US-made long-range guided bomb, making it evident that Taipei will be closely observing the performance of these munitions against Russia.
The United States had been considering sending GLSDBs to Ukraine since the fall of 2022. However, the timeline was delayed to early 2024, pending successful tests.
Testing of the ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDBs) took place on January 16 in Florida. Subsequently, the decision to send these munitions to Ukraine was approved.
On the other hand, Russia has vehemently opposed the prospective transfer of ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDBs), denouncing it as an “extremely dangerous” escalation of the ongoing conflict.
Military analysts suggest that the deployment of the ground-launched small-diameter bomb (GLSDB) would provide Ukraine with the capability to strike deep into enemy territory. This strategic advantage could potentially force Russia to relocate crucial supplies further from the front lines to avoid Ukrainian attacks.
Yet, as of now, there is no official confirmation regarding the delivery of the first batch of ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDBs), despite clear indications that they are about to reach very shortly.
Responding to inquiries, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gene. Pat Ryder recently stated that he could not “confirm specific timelines” for deploying GLSDBs, citing operational security concerns.
Taiwan’s Interest In The GLSDB
The Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) was jointly developed by Boeing and Saab. This munition combines two existing systems: the air-launched 250-pound GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with its pop-out wing set and the rocket booster motor from the 227mm-caliber M26 artillery rocket.
Notably, the M26 rocket is compatible with HIMARS and its tracked counterpart, the M270. During the initial boost/loft phase, the GLSDB is propelled by the M26 rocket motor.
Subsequently, its wings are deployed, transforming it into an unpowered glide bomb. The munition relies on the GBU-39/B SDB’s existing inertial navigation system and embedded GPS to navigate and reach its intended target.
A vital advantage of the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) lies in the abundant supply of M26 rockets and GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) within the stockpiles of both the United States and its allied nations.
This aspect gained significant importance in the Ukraine war, where the imperative for readily available ammunition became a decisive factor influencing outcomes across the battlefield.
This is likely a compelling factor driving Taipei’s interest in acquiring Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs. Although there has been no official announcement from the US government, reports indicated that Taipei received approval in 2022 to purchase the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB).
However, Washington informed Taipei that the prevailing policy prioritizes delivering this weapon to Ukraine.
The report added that the GLSDB has entered its “initial mass production stage,” indicating that full-scale production has not yet been reached. After this disclosure, Taipei did not include the purchase in its 2024 budget proposal.
Despite the delay, the acquisition could move forward after three years, underscoring Taiwan’s continued interest in obtaining this ammunition.
How Will GLSDB Help Taiwan To Counter China?
Taiwan’s proposal for the procurement of Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDBs) is geared towards enhancing the range of its rocket artillery, which also includes the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), capable of firing GLSDBs.
The GLSDB’s impressive range of 150 kilometers (93 miles) surpasses the capabilities of the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rockets used by HIMARS, nearly doubling the reach.
This expanded range will enable Taiwanese forces to effectively target a potential Chinese invasion fleet along the shores of the Taiwan Strait.
Given that the narrowest part of the Taiwan Strait is 130 kilometers, well within the GLSDB’s range, its deployment will pose a significant challenge for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to assemble an amphibious force for a potential invasion of Taiwan.
Additionally, the GLSDB can be employed with anti-ship missiles, such as the Hsiung Feng III, to enhance Taiwan’s defensive capabilities against potential threats from China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) amphibious transports.
Furthermore, the guidance system of these US-made long-range bombs, as asserted by Saab, not only ensures precision within a three-foot margin but also demonstrates resilience against electronic warfare jamming.
This capability is particularly noteworthy given the concerns related to electronic warfare in any modern conflict, thereby prepared to provide Taiwan with a crucial advantage in the face of the Chinese military’s numerically and technologically superior electronic warfare capabilities.
However, once Ukraine begins deploying the GLSDB in the conflict, Moscow will likely develop countermeasures against it. Given Russia’s close relationship with China, it would not be surprising if these countermeasures are eventually shared with Beijing, potentially enabling the effective circumvention of Taiwan’s defenses.
Nevertheless, the true impact of these munitions on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine will be a decisive factor in determining whether Taiwan will proceed with the procurement of this munition.