Ramon Lopez/EGLIN AFB, FLORIDA
As NATO ordnance continued to rain on military targets in Yugoslavia, US Air Force programme managers for the latest generation of "smart" bombs were busy conducting "what if?" exercises for senior Department of Defense officials who were preparing a multi-billion dollar emergency package to fund the air war.
The Clinton Administration's supplemental spending for US air operations will replenish stocks of Boeing AGM-86C conventional air launched cruise missiles (CALCMs) and Raytheon BGM-109 Tomahawk land attack missiles depleted by the Yugoslav air strikes that began on 24 March and by December's Operation Desert Fox in Iraq. USAF officials say the emergency supplemental bill will also pay for accelerated production of the Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance kit and the AGM-130 stand-off weapon, the Raytheon Maverick AGM-65 air-to-surface missile and various laser-guided bombs. Of $1.8 billion allocated for munitions, $431 million has been dedicated to US Navy Tomahawks, $40 million to the USAF's Raytheon ALE-50 electronic warfare towed decoys, $178 million for CALCMs and $35 million for JDAMs.
For example, Oscar Soler, the USAF's JDAM programme manager, says the current production contract has been modified to speed up Lot 2/3 production, from 200 to 300 kits a month.
The global positioning/inertial-navigation guidance kits convert free-fall Mk83/450kg (1,000lb), Mk84/900kg gravity bombs and BLU-109 450kg hard target penetrators into precision-guided weapons. Boeing can expect to earn $2 billion providing the USAF and USN with as many as 74,000 kits, including 937 units in the first production lot, 2,202 in Lot 2 and 2,527 in Lot 3.
Over 500 of the 937 initial JDAM kits delivered to date have been dropped from Northrop Grumman B-2 stealth bombers, requiring Lot 2 deliveries to begin in May rather than in July as previously planned. Lot 3 units will begin arriving in January. Lot 2 production was to run to May 2000, but all 2,202 units will be delivered by the end of this year. Lot 3 deliveries are to be completed by August 2000. Soler says the "what if?" deliberations have considered increasing JDAM's fabrication rate to as many as 700 kits a month, a peak production rate which was not planned until Lot 5/6.
As of mid-May, six B-2 stealth bombers operating almost daily from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, had dropped more than 454,000kg of JDAMs on Yugoslav targets with no civilian casualties, according to USAF Brig Gen Leroy Barnidge, commander of the 509th Bomber Wing. "The performance really has exceeded all of our expectations. It is a combination of stealth, long range, large payload and precise munitions," he says, adding that battle damage assessments show that air attacks caused "zero collateral damage." But the use of allied air power against Yugoslavia has been imperfect because of poor weather and other issues, with several incidents underscoring the point that both collateral damage caused by errant bombs and poor intelligence remain a by-product of any air campaign.
Much progress has been made since the final days of the Vietnam War, when US forces began employing precision-guided munitions (PGMs). Less than 10% of the bombs dropped in the 1991 Operation Desert Storm bombing campaign were PGMs, but the success of the Gulf War, in which a number of "smart" bombs made their debuts, spawned additional weapons programmes and research efforts. Some are being fielded after eight years.
One such weapon, the Raytheon AGM-154A Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) was used in combat for the first time on 25 January. The USN and Raytheon say a Boeing F/A-18 on routine "no-fly zone" patrol over Iraq used three JSOWs to knock out an air defence site. A handful of JSOWs are available for USN use in Yugoslavia, but the USAF will not receive its initial global positioning/inertial-navigation-guided AGM-154As for use on B-2 bombers until early next year.
The situation is the same for the Lockheed Martin Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) which is in low-rate initial production. The inertial guidance bomb kit, which will be fitted to tactical munitions dispensers carruying the CBU-103 Combined Effects Munition (CEM), the Gator mine, and the CBU-97 Sensor Fused Weapon (SFW), is designed to eliminate the effects of wind drift using global positioning system data.
The device, which allows for precise high-altitude bombing, addresses a problem revealed during Desert Storm when cluster bombs had to be delivered from relatively low altitudes during bad weather. Similar problems bedevil today's war planners who say the weather was good on only nine of the Kosovo air campaign's first 60 days. USAF Col Bill Wise, programme director for area attack weapons, says: "WCMD will allow you to deliver area weapons accurately above the weather." But Boeing B-52 bombers will not be equipped with WCMD until late 2000.
Joint direct attack munition
Four years after the Gulf War ended, the USAF selected McDonnell Douglas - now Boeing - to develop JDAM and produce guidance kits which convert free-fall bombs into all-weather PGMs. From a target price of $40,000, the USAF and Boeing have cut the unit cost to about $18,000, a 67% saving.
A product improvement programme (PIP), which is in concept exploration, focuses on "the one, two, or three technologies that really might have good pay-off possibilities," says Soler. Now accurate to within 10m (30ft), Soler says a primary focus of the PIP is to try to improve JDAM's accuracy to 3m through incorporation of a terminal seeker such as an imaging infrared (IIR) sensor, a laser radar or a synthetic aperture radar.
Another PIP under evaluation is a global positioning system anti-jam capability which has been successfully demonstrated by the USAF Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate at Eglin AFB, Florida. Meanwhile, Boeing and GEC-Marconi Dynamics are funding flight tests of the latter's Diamond Back wing kit on the Mk84 JDAMs this month at the China Lake weapons centre in California. JDAM has a range of about 28km (15nm) when dropped from high altitudes. A wing could extend that to between 75km and 110km.
At the same time, Boeing is funding development and flight testing of a JDAM tail kit for the Mk82/227kg bomb, a candidate for a future US miniaturised munition and for foreign military sales. Soler says several foreign countries, including Israel, seek to buy JDAM, but all foreign military sales transactions are on hold until the US requirements are filled.
In April, Boeing received a $41.3 million contract to convert 95 of the 325 remaining stockpiled nuclear-tipped AGM-86Bs to CALCMs with conventional payloads and global positioning capability. The USAF seeks to modify the rest, as less than 100 CALCMs remain in reserve for use on the B-52. It may restart CALCM production, but the weapon is intended to give the USAF a bridge to the Lockheed Martin Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile (JASSM), which will enter air force inventory in 2002. According to Frank Robbins, the USAF's programme director for precision strike weapons at Eglin AFB, the USAF continues to look at a penetrator warhead for CALCM, which is now armed with a 900kg-class blast fragmentation warhead. He says a draft requirements document exists, but "design trade-offs" need to be resolved. "I think everything will come to a conclusion in the next two months," he adds.
The USAF has successfully tested the UK-developed BROACH warhead which combines an initial penetrating charge with a secondary follow-through bomb. The tandem-charged warhead was developed for the Matra BAe Dynamics Storm Shadow missile by BAe Royal Ordnance, Thomson Thorn Missile Electronics and the UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.
The second candidate is the Lockheed Martin BLU-116B Advanced Unitary Penetrator (AUP), an upgrade to the 900kg BLU-109 hard target penetrating warhead used in the Gulf War. The BLU-109 is the heart of the GBU-24 low-level laser guided bomb, the GBU-27 laser-guided bomb, and the GBU-15/AGM-130 guided stand-off weapon.
Although the AUP has the same external appearance and flight characteristics as the BLU-109, its advanced warhead can penetrate over twice as much reinforced concrete. Designated AUP-3 for CALCM applications, it is a 545kg variant of a slightly smaller penetrating bomb designed for the weapons bay of the Joint Strike Fighter. AUP-3 would be equipped with the hard target smart fuse or burst point optimisation. AUP-3 sled tests last year did not produce the desired results. Additional tests are planned over the next few months, says Robbins.
Government and industry sources say the USN will begin acquiring 400-600 GBU-24 weapons armed with 900kg AUP-1 penetrating warheads over the next five years. The USAF has no plans to buy the AUP-1. Lockheed Martin has applied for export licences to market AUP to NATO allies and Australia.
Joint stand-off weapon
Raytheon has delivered all 100 Lot 1 low rate initial production orders for the AGM-154A to the USN. In January, Raytheon was awarded a $134 million contract for full production of the AGM-154A, which carries 145 soft-target BLU-97 CEM and initial low rate production for the AGM-154B, which incorporates the BLU-108 anti-armour SFW submunition. Raytheon can expect to build more than 11,000 AGM-154As, with the USN receiving 8,800 units. Up to 4,200 AGM-154Bs would be built, with 3,000 going to the USAF. Engineering and manufacturing development of the AGM-154C unitary warhead version of JSOW with an autonomous imaging infrared (IIR) terminal sensor and the BLU-111 227kg blast-fragmentation warhead is under way for the USN. About 3,000 AGM-154Cs will be fielded, from 2002.
An unpowered glide weapon, JSOW has space allocated in the aft section of the vehicle to allow for the integration of a turbojet engine or a rocket motor to triple the weapon's maximum range of 64km. USN Cpt John Scheffler, JSOW deputy programme manager, says there is no requirement for a powered weapon, however. Also undefined is a penetrator warhead development. He adds that both AUP and Broach remain viable candidates despite Raytheon's recommendation of Broach to fill any future need for a penetrating warhead.
Lockheed Martin could provide the USAF with 40,000 WCMDs, worth about $500 million. Flight testing has been extended into next year because of a fin movement problem that could impede safe separation from the launch aircraft. The company will test four technical solutions.
Sensor fused weapon
Textron has delivered more than 1,000 of the 5,000 CBU-97 sensor fused weapons that the USAF plans to buy. SFW is a SUU-66/B tactical munitions dispenser containing 10 BLU-108/B submunitions, each carrying four Skeet anti-armour warheads. Work on pre-planned product improvements are ongoing and will feature a seeker upgrade with a laser range finder and a warhead that dispenses shrapnel-like shards in addition to the traditional copper penetrator. The USAF will buy about 2,500 of the improved SFW beginning in 2001.
Robbins says the USAF is close to authorising pilot production of new seekers for the Raytheon AGM-65H/K Maverick tactical air-to-surface missile designed for close air support, interdiction, and defence suppression. A base contract includes options for six production lots with deliveries to begin not later than 2001. These options will provide guidance and control sections for up to 1,950 AGM-65H or AGM-65K missiles. The new electro-optical seeker will increase the reliability and standoff range during daylight operations to two to three times that of the existing weapon. The AGM-65H incorporates a lightweight, shaped-charge warhead, while the AGM-65K mounts a heavyweight warhead.
The Boeing AGM-130A, a powered air-to-surface missile, is being used in Operation Allied Force. It is equipped with either a television or an imaging infrared seeker, which provides the launch aircraft with a visual presentation of the target as seen from the weapon. A powered version of the GBU-15 glide bomb, the weapon can lock on to the target either before or after launch, for automatic guidance, or it can be manually steered by the Boeing F-15E weapon system officer via the two-way datalink.
Robbins says Boeing has been authorised to accelerate AGM-130A production. Used for the first time in combat in January against Iraq, the USAF's planned purchase of 700 weapons could increase because of the Kosovo air campaign. He says the USAF has no requirement for an extended-range AGM-130 tested last year by Boeing. In the test, the weapon's solid-fuel rocket motor was replaced with a Microturbo turbojet, an adaptation of the engine on the MQM-107 target.
Source: Flight International