GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)
The GBU-38/B is a 500lb JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) manufactured by Boeing using the Mk82 bomb body. Composed of a MK-82 with the joint direct attack munitions guidance system, the GBU-38 is considered a "lightweight" compared to most of the other munitions loaded on F-16s.
As of mid-2002 the GBU-38 (500 lb. MK-82 GP) JDAM was in development and undergoing flight testing. Projects on the Heritage Hornet include Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra-red (ATFLIR) adjacent weapons separation, FZU-61 arming lanyard flight clearance, and GBU-38 MK-82 JDAM testing. By 2005 the Air Force plans to add the GBU-38 500lb Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to the turboprop-powered Predator B, designated MQ-9B by the US Air Force and referred to as the Hunter-Killer.
In the fall of 2004, a team operating in Iraq and primarily composed of Air National Guardsmen conducted the first successful drop of a GBU-38 bomb in combat. The majority of the people connected to the effort came from the Alabama Air National Guard and were supplemented by Airmen from Illinois and Wisconsin. During the strike, two 500-pound bombs were dropped on a target reported by Coalition Press Information Center officials to be a confirmed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi terrorist meeting. Two F-16 Fighting Falcons performed a simultaneous GBU-38 release on the same target in central Iraq. The bombs precisely hit a two-story building while reportedly causing with minimal collateral damage. Pilots who made the drops, reported that the procedures used to release the GBU-38 were no different than those used for any other bomb with coordinates simply set and the bombs delivered.
In recognition that the GBU-38 was soon to be released to the warfighter, Alabama ANG officials had previously sent a load standardization crew to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to become certified instructors on loading this type of munition. When the unit deployed, the crew then immediately turned around to teach others how to load it. Additionally, the munitions flight that helped build the bomb at the deployed location, spared no time in getting it ready for the load crews to practice mounting on the jets.
On October 29, 2004, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 of Carrier Air Wing 17, embarked aboard USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), dropped the Navy's first two 500-pound GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) during combat operations in Iraq. VFA-34's weapons destroyed the target. The successful strike was the culmination of a noteworthy effort by Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Commander, Fleet Forces Command, and Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, to rapidly test, procure and deploy a new weapon system to satisfy an emergent operational requirement. The GBU-38 completed its initial operational evaluation Sept. 28 from NAVAIR test ranges in southern California. The successful evaluation resulted in an early operational capability Oct. 8, eight months ahead of its scheduled initial operational capability, ultimately bringing this capability to the warfighter much sooner than expected.
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