By Mike Stone
WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Ukraine will need to wait until next year before it receives its first big shipment of rocket-propelled bombs the U.S. has adapted to strike at a nearly 100-mile (160km) range, according to the Pentagon and people familiar with the timing.
When the U.S. was first approached by Boeing to buy and ship the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) to Ukraine last fall, the most optimistic timeline for shipping was around spring of this year, according to a document seen by Reuters at that time. It was reported by Politico in February that delivery wouldn't take place until later in 2023.
Ukraine needs GLSDB to augment the limited number of 100-mile range ATACMS rockets the U.S. has sent. It will allow Ukraine's military to hit targets at twice the distance reachable by the rockets it now fires from the U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and force Russia to move its supplies even farther from the front lines.
People familiar with current timing say delivery to the U.S. by Boeing, the prime contractor for the GLSDB, will take place in late December - followed by several months of testing before onward shipment to Ukraine.
A Pentagon spokesman said "we anticipate providing this key capability in the early 2024 timeframe after successful verification," another term for testing.
Because the contract to begin production of GLSDB was signed in March, according to a Pentagon statement to Reuters, delivery was forced towards year-end. Production required government furnished materials, so contract signing constrained its start.
The decision to send the long-range rocket, something the U.S. government hasn't purchased for itself, followed a proposal last summer from Boeing Co to U.S. commanders in Europe managing weapons for Ukraine.
Boeing did not respond to a request for comment.
Although Russia said in March it had shot down a GLSDB, the U.S. has not supplied any of the smart bombs to Ukraine, a U.S. official and a person familiar with the matter said. Reuters could not determine if another country supplied Kyiv with the weapon.
GLSDB is made jointly by Sweden's SAAB AB and Boeing Co. It is GPS-guided, can defeat some electronic jamming, is usable in all weather conditions, and can be used against armored vehicles, according to SAAB's website.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)