After it was reported by the Pentagon officials about the integration of AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles into Ukraine’s fighters, which had been considered impossible before, new talks emerged about the integration of other weapons.
Defense Express has already described in detail which air-to-air missiles have certain logical chances to get "under the wing" of Ukraine’s MiG-29 and Su-27, and now the time has come for an equally important weapon, which is air-to-ground missiles.
The fact is that when it comes to surface-to-air missiles, long-range weapons are obviously the most important aspect. That is, air-based cruise missiles that can be suspended under the wing of a conventional MiG-29, Su-27 or Su-24M, which creates certain restrictions on weight and size characteristics.
Despite the desire to use the strategic AGM-86 with a flight range of more than 1,000 km, there are no carriers for it in Ukraine. Moreover, political restrictions on the launch range of such missiles may play a key role. Therefore, it is possible to immediately focus on "moderate" means.
And one of the first candidates is the AGM-84K SLAM-ER, which is a deep modification of the AGM-84 Harpoon, which is designed specifically for the destruction of ground targets. This missile can be used from F-15 and F/A-18 aircraft, as well as even the rather obsolete S-3 Viking.
It provides high-precision target damage thanks to an inertial and satellite system, as well as a TERCOM on the march area and a thermal imaging sensor. The flight range of the missile is up to 270 km and it carries a 360-kg warhead. The SLAM-ER has been reported to have the best overall accuracy of any missile used by the US Air Force and Navy. In addition, the missile is made using stealth technologies, which makes its interception by means available in russia more than doubtful.
The main question is how to bypass the missile's communication with the aircraft's on-board radio-electronic systems. But the data regarding the target and its coordinates is quite possible to store in the memory of the rocket while on the ground. And then the plane's only task will be to get to the desired launch area and strike. Then the missile has to do everything itself, the only downside is losing the possibility to control the missile in flight and redirect the missile to another target after launch, which is a feature of SLAM-ER.
The Turkish SOM rocket by Roketsan can be considered similar in terms of the logic of the launch. Its official range is up to 250 km, the missile carries 230 kg of warhead and has similar guidance algorithms to SLAM-ER, including a thermal imaging homing head.
According to the specifications, this missile can be used with the F-16 and F-4, but there’s an interesting fact: the SOM cruise missile was purchased by Azerbaijan in approximately 2018. This country has only MiG-29s, which underwent repair and modernization in Ukraine, and Su-25s. In other words, the means of its integration were found in Baku and it is possible to repeat them.
Taking into account Ukraine's active cooperation with Turkey in the defense sphere, it is quite a realistic scenario to apply such missiles.
But not only cruise missiles should be considered in the matter of equipping Ukraine’s aircraft. British Brimstone anti-tank missiles, which are already at the disposal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, will be useful as well. And the possibility of launching them from a ground launcher has already been proven.
Active homing radar head independently searches for the target, and what's more, several launched missiles can independently redistribute their targets in flight in order to prevent multiple damage to the same object.
Applying these missiles from Su-25 attack aircraft, most likely, can also be implemented according to the principle of going to the required launch area, after that the missiles will autonomously search for targets.
Read more: An Air-launched HARM Missile, a HIMARS Strike or a "Double" SMArt: How the Ukrainians Destroyed a Rare russian Radar (Video)