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JDAM bombs used in Pacific theater

by 1st Lt. Heather Healy 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

09/30/02 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFPN) -- Pilots in the 35th Fighter Squadron here are the first in Pacific Air Forces to drop Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs. The opportunity came during a training mission Sept. 24.

The JDAM is a low-maintenance weapon that is consistently used by fighters and bombers in the war in Afghanistan. But with all its perks and practicality, almost none of the pilots here have had the chance to drop one.

In fact, Lt. Col. John Colombo, 35th FS commander, is the first F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot in the command to drop a JDAM in this part of the world. Because the JDAM is being used in actual combat, it is difficult to get a training allotment, said Colombo. Finding available ranges to drop these weapons has also been a challenge.

The bomb uses a guidance tail kit that converts the standard "dumb" bomb into a "smart" bomb using an inertial navigational system and a global positioning guidance control unit.

With dumb bombs, said Colombo, the location of the drop has to be very precise and any number of errors could change the path of the bomb once it's left the plane.

"The beauty of this weapon is the fact that it's going to go where I told it right before I released it. This is truly a release-and-forget weapon," Colombo said.

One of the major factors in employing any bomb has always been weather, but with the JDAM, that factor is all but eliminated.

"For a general-purpose munition, we'd build one for good weather and one for bad weather," said Airman 1st Class Michael Schroeder, 8th Maintenance Group. "The JDAM almost cuts our work in half."

"It's a really eloquent solution to give us all-weather capability," Colombo said. "But it required a tremendous amount of work from a lot of people to put this together."

The simplicity of the bomb is something the conventional maintenance crew workers truly appreciate.

"It is extremely different than other bombs," said Senior Airman Hunter Wray, of the 8th MXG. "You put in six set screws, and you're done."

Not only is the process of putting the tail kit on the bomb body less work, but the extended service life of a JDAM allows large groups of these bombs to be built and put aside until needed, said Airman 1st Class Jake Masterson, 8th MXG.

"For example, a GB-12 has to be taken apart and inspected every 180 days," Masterson said. "We inspect about 10 bombs a week and a lot of our time is spent just doing that."

Most of the wing people who had the chance to be a part of the JDAM drop will agree that it is impressive on the ground and in the air.

"It's great to go do something you've only read about," said Colombo. "I know how it's supposed to work, but to actually have it went extremely well."

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