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Supersonic JDAM drop marks increase in Raptor capability

by Christopher Ball
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

7/25/2005 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- As the midafternoon sun blazed on the Mojave Desert and thunderclouds loomed in the distance, a sleek dark gray war bird took to the sky to push the envelope of flight testing.

At the controls, Maj. John Teichert, a 411th Flight Test Squadron test pilot, pushed the F/A-22 Raptor past Mach 1, opened the weapons bay and released a guided bomb unit-32 1,000-pound joint direct attack munition, marking the first time a Raptor has dropped a JDAM at supersonic speed.

"Qualifying the Raptor to release GPS-guided bombs at supersonic speeds is a significant milestone for the program," Major Teichert said. "Releasing a bomb under such conditions provides a notable increase in Raptor tactical capabilities."

The GBU-32 separation test vehicle that was released is the same size, shape and weight as a real bomb, but without the guidance kit.

In 2004, the Raptor proved it was capable of air-to-ground operations with subsonic JDAM releases. Other aircraft have released a JDAM at supersonic speeds.

"But the speeds at which we will eventually release the JDAM over the next couple of weeks will far exceed any current aircraft's JDAM envelope," Major Teichert said.

Additionally, this was the first time a JDAM was released supersonically from an internal weapons bay, officials said.

Even with thorough mission planning and briefing, including several contingencies, by the test team and the test conductor, the testing was not without its challenges.

Some of these challenges included limited range airspace to reach test conditions, longer range travel of the weapon after release, more difficulty with the photo chase aircraft keeping up with the Raptor and harsh conditions for the aircraft and the weapon at release.

"All these factors obviously increased the stress level of the mission,” Major Teichert said. “Attention to detail was heightened in order to ensure a successful test.”

Major Teichert credited the mission success to thorough coordination among the test team, the mission crew and the range controllers.

"Pilots and engineers had coordinated the details of the test during the test planning phase," he said. "This close orchestration allowed the test to meet its objectives as well as demonstrate operational relevance."

The Raptor is designed to operate high and fast where it has an enhanced tactical advantage over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats, the major said.

"Adding the capability of supersonic JDAM provides a substantial increase in bomb range to destroy lethal threats well outside of their engagement envelopes," he said. "The Raptor is essential to the Global Strike concept, and supersonic JDAM optimizes that capability." (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)

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