The U.S. may send small precision bombs fitted onto rockets with a range long enough to reach targets far inside Russian lines as defense leaders scramble for options outside of shrinking U.S. weapons inventories, Reuters reported.
The Pentagon is entertaining a Boeing proposal to produce Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB) that have a 100-mile range, one of roughly half a dozen programs the U.S. is considering to sustain weapons transfers to Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing industry sources.
Weapon stockpiles of the U.S. and European allies have dwindled since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and Ukraine has not stopped demanding more, and more sophisticated weaponry.
The U.S. has declined to fill requests for the ATACMS missile, which has a 185-mile range and could allow Ukraine to strike Russian territory, fearing the potential escalation in the conflict that could bring, Reuters reported.
However, the GLSDB could pierce valuable targets behind Russian lines previously out of reach to Ukrainian forces and provide an additional capability to further advance its counteroffensive campaigns.
The GLSDB could be delivered as soon as spring 2023, according to a document reviewed by Reuters and three sources familiar with the matter. The plan requires the Pentagon to draw the primary components of the GLSDB — two widely-available systems, the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and the M26 rocket motor — from existing stores, the document shows.
“It’s about getting quantity at a cheap cost,” Tom Karako, a weapons and security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters. Stockpiles are “getting low relative to the levels we like to keep on hand and certainly to the levels we’re going to need to deter a China conflict.”
The plan requires the Department of Defense (DOD) to issue a so-called price discovery waiver exempting Boeing from the rigorous review to ensure the contract results in the best possible return on investment of U.S. taxpayer dollars, according to Reuters. At least six suppliers would also need to fast-track parts and services for GLSDB production to meet the spring 2023 goal.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman declined to comment on any “specific capability” the department is considering for Ukraine, according to Reuters, but said the U.S. and partners “identify and consider the most appropriate systems” for aiding Ukraine.
Plummeting inventories account for the increased pressure on the Pentagon and European allies’ defense ministries to step up domestic production, Karako explained, according to Reuters.
European countries are “putting a lot of orders” for U.S.-made weapons, Doug Bush, who coordinates weapons purchases for the U.S. Army, told the Pentagon last week, according to Reuters.
However, defense contractors have struggled to meet existing demand. The U.S. will have to dramatically ramp up production, or otherwise risk further weakening the U.S. arsenal and adversely affecting America’s ability to react to dangers from China and other potential foes, experts previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation.