US Air Force successfully tests new GBU-31 JDAM anti-ship variant

The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with the 780th Test Squadron of the 96th Test Wing and the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron of the 53rd Wing to equip an F-15E Strike Eagle at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida with a modified 2,000-pound GBU. 31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions as part of the second test of the QUICKSINK Joint Capability Technology Demonstration. QUICKSINK, a new low-cost aerial capability to defeat maritime threats, successfully destroyed a large-scale surface ship on April 28, 2022, as part of a demonstration in the Gulf of Mexico. (US Air Force Photo/1st Lt Lindsey Heflin)

The new variant, dubbed Quicksink, is intended to provide the Air Force with a smart torpedo-style anti-ship weapon.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Eglin Air Force Base Integrated Test Team recently demonstrated a new low-cost, air-delivered smart weapon capability , intended to defeat maritime threats. The test, which took place on April 28, 2022, saw an F-15E Strike Eagle release a modified 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and successfully destroy a large-scale surface ship in the Gulf of Mexico.

This test is the second experiment in the Quicksink Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, a collaborative effort with the AFRL, the 780th Test Squadron, 96th Test Wing, and the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron of the 53rd Wing, and funded by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “Quicksink is a response to an urgent need to neutralize maritime threats to freedom around the world,” said Colonel Tony Meeks, Director of the AFRL Munitions Directorate. “The men and women of this leadership are constantly finding ways to solve our country’s greatest challenges.

The Quicksink program, which is also being developed in partnership with the US Navy, aims to provide new options for rapidly neutralizing fixed or moving surface maritime targets at minimal cost while demonstrating the inherent flexibility of the joint force for future combat scenarios. “Quicksink is unique in that it can provide new capabilities to existing and future DOD weapon systems, providing combatant commanders and our national leaders with new ways to defend against maritime threats,” Kirk said. Herzog, AFRL program manager.

Usually, when dealing with enemy ships, the weapons of choice are heavy torpedoes launched by submarines, which however pay for their effectiveness with a high cost and a small part of the naval resources that can employ them. “Heavy torpedoes are effective [at sinking large ships] but are expensive and used by a small portion of naval assets,” said Major Andrew Swanson, 85th TES Division Chief of Advanced Programs. “With Quicksink, we have demonstrated an inexpensive and more agile solution that has the potential to be used by the majority of Air Force combat aircraft, giving combat commanders and fighters more options. .”

An F-15E Strike Eagle equipped with modified 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions prepares for takeoff from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 28, 2022, for the second test of the technology demonstration joint QUICKSINK capability. Developed by scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, this new low-cost aerial capability successfully destroyed a large-scale surface ship in the Gulf of Mexico. The test was successful through a collaborative effort with the AFRL and Eglin’s Integrated Testing Team. (US Air Force Photo/1st Lt Lindsey Heflin)

After the test, the AFRL released a video showing the moment the modified JDAM bomb hit the target, an old freighter, which was split in two by the explosion and quickly sank. The bomb appears to explode below the waterline, just like a torpedo would. It is not known, however, what modifications were made to the GBU-31 to achieve this kind of effect.

As for weapon guidance, this particular bomb combines its existing GPS-assisted Inertial Guidance System (INS) in the tail with a new nose-mounted seeker, which however is not visible in the published photos. . According to the press release, the AFRL is developing a Weapons Open Systems Architecture Finder, or WOSA, to enable precise weapon placement, reducing costs while providing the ability to plug and play components. finder from different manufacturers.

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in industrial engineering, he is also studying for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. Electronic warfare, vagrant ammunition and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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