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Airmen test new small diameter bomb system

by 2nd Lt. Erin Tindell
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/12/2005 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho (AFPN) -- Gunfighters with the 366th Maintenance Group here put their skills to use when they tested a new small diameter bomb system Aug. 3 to 5.

The GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb system is a low-cost, precision-strike weapon system that will soon be used by fighters, bombers and unmanned combat air vehicles. The weapon is currently being tested on F-15E Strike Eagles.

Mountain Home is one of several Air Combat Command and Air National Guard bases receiving training for the new munition. The 250-pound bomb is half the weight of the current precision bombs used on F-15Es. Its small size allows four bombs to be attached to each of the five weapon stations on the aircraft, said Dave Ward of the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

“We can now send one aircraft to do the job of four,” Mr. Ward said. “So increased load outputs are the primary advantage of the new weapon system.”

Another advantage of the bomb is reduced collateral damage during contingencies such as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The “smarter” bomb will be able to maximize damage to enemy targets.

To get gunfighters up to speed on the new weapon system, Mr. Ward, along with people at the Air Force Test Evaluation Center and ACC, trained and evaluated maintainers on maintaining and loading the bomb.

“We ran through all the logistical and maintenance phases up to the load of the bomb on (F-15E) weapon racks. That way when the bomb becomes operational, Airmen will be able to properly use and maintain the bomb,” Mr. Ward said.

The team initially trained the munitions system technicians, and then armament craftsmen. The maintainers were able to become familiar with both the design of the weapon and the four-place smart carriage system that it attaches to on the F-15E. After training, a full test of the bomb was completed Aug. 5.

Maintainers said they like the new system because it is more user-friendly than current weapon inventories.

“All the maintenance for the bomb could be done in less than an hour, so we were timed to verify that the time span could be accomplished,” said Tech. Sgt. T.J. Koskovich of the 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron. Sergeant Koskovich worked with the bomb’s carriage system. “The new time standard is well under the amount of time it takes to work on our current armament systems.”

Training and being tested on the new weapon system was a welcome change of pace for weapons loaders as well.

“It was an honor to be able to load something new to the Air Force that isn’t even operational yet,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Bloom, an F-15E load crew chief with the 391st Fighter Squadron.

The bomb system is expected to become fully operational by 2007. The turnaround on the project is on pace to be completed three times faster than the completion of most weapon projects.

“Most weapon systems in the past have taken 8 to 10 years to do the same thing we’re doing in three,” he said.

Air Force officials plan to initially field the bomb on the F-15E in fiscal 2006 and later on the F/A-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and eventually every other weapon platform. Initial estimates are that the Air Force will procure at least 24,000 weapons and 2,000 carriages.

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