Hardened Surface Target Ordnance Package (HardSTOP)
The Air Force is developing technology to better prosecute the offensive portion of the the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The Air Force is focusing on technologies to meet the capability needs of the combatant commanders. Many of these technologies could be applicable to a number of different joint uses and the Air Force actively pursues joint programs and sharing of technology with the Services, Defense Agencies, and others. The Air Force S&T Program has a considerable portfolio of technology focused on the GWOT.
The Hardened Surface Target Ordnance Package (HardSTOP) is an airdrop munition technology development focused on multi-story targets in urban terrain. HardSTOP was developed in response to repeated calls from commanders in Iraq who complained that most munitions launched from aircraft were too large and powerful for urban combat, and put too many civilians at risk. The bomb provides maximum control of damage to a multi-storey building in a densely populated urban environment without endangering adjacent buildings and the surrounding region, allied force troops and civilians.
HardSTOP consists of a cluster bomblet dispenser, two different types of submunitions sizes, and is compatibile with GPS/INS guided munitions and Wind Corrected Munition Dispenser components to ensure precision strikes. Additionally, HardSTOP provides low-collateral damage with a precisely selectable explosion diameter, distributing the bomblets in an area as small as 20 feet in diameter, or up to 110 feet.
HardSTOP is equipped with 54 mini-penetration charges to allow it to hit targets within multi-story buildings and soft bunker type targets. A smart fuze allows the weapon to be programmed to explode only after it enters a building. It destroys whatever is inside the facility, but not the outside. The submunitions are equipped with a small amount of explosives, and with the use of programmable fuses the submunitions can be detonated at certain intervals or all at the same time. Thus, HardSTOP can attack a single floor in a building, or attack multiple floors in a building at the same time. Programmable fuses avoid unexploded submunitions left on the battlefield.
The Air Force successfully launched HardSTOP flight tests in January 2005 carrying the inert submunitions. HardSTOP has been tested at Eglin Air Force Base, and as of early 2005 was expected to be shipped to Iraq before the end of the year. In July 2005 it was reported that "The U.S. Air Force ... is shipping to Iraq a new bomb, called Hardstop..."
Strangely, for such an interesting and innovative munition, there is an amazing lack of information on the development or deployment of this system. Possibly the US military has minimized discussion of this weapon in order to avoid controversy over the use of cluster bombs in Iraq.
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