The United States is considering a proposal to provide Ukraine with cheap, small precision bombs, which would allow Kiev to strike far behind Russian lines, as the war drags on and the West struggles to meet demands for more weapons.
Citing industry sources, Reuters said in a report on Monday that the Pentagon was considering a Boeing proposal, dubbed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), for getting new munitions into production for Ukraine and America's Eastern European allies.
The GLSDB's 150km range would allow Ukraine to hit valuable military targets that have been out of reach and help it continue pressing its counterattacks by disrupting Russian rear areas, according to the report said.
GLSDB is GPS-guided, can defeat some electronic jamming, is usable in all weather conditions, and can be used against armored vehicles.
The GBU-39 - which would function as the GLSDB's warhead - has small, folding wings that allow it to glide more than 100km if dropped from an aircraft and targets as small as 3 feet in diameter.
GLSDB could be delivered as early as spring 2023, according to a document reviewed by Reuters and three people familiar with the plan.
It combines the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) with the M26 rocket motor, both of which are common in US inventories.
GLSDB is made jointly by SAAB AB (SAABb.ST) and Boeing Co (BA.N) and has been in development since 2019.
SAAB chief executive Micael Johansson said of the GLSDB in October, “We are imminently shortly expecting contracts on that.”
Pentagon spokesman Tim Gorman declined to comment on providing any "specific capability" to Ukraine, but said the US and its allies "identify and consider the most appropriate systems" that would help Kiev.
Doug Bush, the US Army's chief weapons buyer said the nine-month war in Ukraine drove up demand for American-made weapons and ammunition, while US allies in Eastern Europe are "putting a lot of orders," in for a range of arms as they supply Ukraine.
A Boeing proposal to US European Command (EUCOM), which is overseeing weapons headed to Ukraine - the main components of the GLSDB would come from current US stores, according to the document.
Russia started the military campaign in Ukraine in late February. Moscow says it launched the operation in order to defend the pro-Russian population in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk against persecution by Kiev.
Ever since the beginning of the war, Kiev's allies, led by the United States and Britain, have been pumping Ukraine full of advanced weapons, a step that Russia says would only prolong the hostilities.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of US senators asked President Joe Biden to consider giving Ukraine advanced drones.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the signatories urged the secretary to supply Ukraine with MQ-1C, also known as Gray Eagle, drones, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Washington has so far committed nearly $20 billion in military assistance to Kiev since January 2021, including rocket and air defense systems.
A report said earlier this month that the US managed to conduct in-person inspections for only about 10 percent of the weapons it provided for Ukraine, weapons that require special oversight amid the conflict in the country, a report says.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that “powerful weapons, including portable air defense systems and precision weapons,” are being smuggled out of Ukraine and onto the black market.
Up to $1 billion worth of arms are funneled from Ukraine to criminals, terrorists and extremists every month, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova.