USAF seeks the McDonald’s French Fry of bombs


The US Air Force’s bombs come in roughly six sizes — the mini (250lb) SDB, and small (500lb), medium (1,000) and large (2,000lb) JDAMs. There’s also the extra-large (15,000lb) Daisy Cutter and super-size (20,000lbs) MOAB.

One of the key frustrations in modern combat is that you’ll only have a “small” 500-pounder available when you really need a mini or a large to, well, do the job. It’s a huge problem for close air support, where a slightly errant 500-pounder could wipe out the wrong troops.

The USAF has talked about building a “dial-a-yield” bomb since at least 2003, but surprisingly nothing until very recently.

A request for information dated 31 October asks industry to propose a new 500-pound bomb featuring “selectable” modes ranging from minimum to medium to maximum. It also needs to be ready for delivery in between 2012 and 2016.


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11 Responses to USAF seeks the McDonald’s French Fry of bombs

  1. RobH 10 November, 2008 at 10:31 pm #

    Wow, you’d need some ‘ultra-insensitive’ high explosive to pull that off: These would be cells of HE that are incapable if interaction. The ‘dial-a-death’ selector would need to be a computer interface to the detonators.

    Expensive, but do-able. I’d love to be on that team.

  2. cfdman 11 November, 2008 at 2:31 am #

    I don’t buy it. What this really means is that a large and heavy weapon would be carried at all times to be “dialed down” at the target to just what is required. But this means that a larger than required weapon would need to be carried aften: supreme waste of gas, effort, payload, etc.

    Maybe from a “bomb truck” (B1), but I doubt this could realistically be used on any other platform. Carriage payload on something like an F15/F16/F18 is more precious by weight than gold and this idea sounds like deliberatlely sacrificing it.

    Won’t happen, but it would not be the firt time a dumb idea got lots of traction.

  3. ELP 11 November, 2008 at 5:01 am #

    The B-61 is a great dial a yeild weapon :)

  4. Jimmy 11 November, 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    Why can’t you use 2 500# for 1 1,000# job?

  5. Stephen Trimble 11 November, 2008 at 2:18 pm #

    Jimmy — I think that’s basically the options today. But that assumes you always have a couple of 500-pounders and 1,000-pounders on the rack and within range of the target. That also assumes that you don’t need a 100-pound effect when all you’ve got is a 500-pounder or a 1,000-pounder. So this would be the answer to that problem.

  6. demophilus 11 November, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    Maybe the weight is constant, but the blast radius is dial-a-yield. You could do that with a reactive material/thermobaric device. Your 500 lbs. would be a nice tight hot and high pressure blast, like a conventional bomb, or a wider, thermobaric footprint.

  7. Jimmy 12 November, 2008 at 4:25 pm #

    It will be easier to dial down the yield than to dial up/down the yield.

  8. Craig Hoyle 17 November, 2008 at 10:41 am #

    Maybe the USAF should take a look at the UK’s new Raytheon Systems Paveway IV? It’s off to Afghanistan this month for the first time with the RAF’s Harriers, and has a pretty impressive range of effects:

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