Currently, torpedoes are one of the most effective alternatives to attack maritime targets. However, these shells are far from perfect: they are expensive and require special resources to launch, such as submarines located near the enemy target. The US Air Force believes it has found a way to overcome these obstacles: a powerful low-cost guided bomb.
Quicksink, as this new weapon is known, can be dropped from aircraft and is capable of attacking ships that are stationary as well as moving. His damage target is clear: disable the sea target. How? Severely damaging the keel, which is the backbone of the boat. Before this type of attack, in general, the boats end up split in two.
From “dumb bomb” into a precision weapon
The key to the system, which has been developed between the US Air Force and Navy, is that converts conventional bombs in the arsenal into precision guided weapons. That is, instead of developing an entirely new solution, which often drives costs to stratospheric levels, existing resources were combined to create an alternative to torpedoes.
The process of transforming the bombs is as simple as adding a targeting kit made by Boeing, known as JDAM. This is a plugin that includes an inertial navigation system and a global positioning system (GPS). Once a projectile is “converted”, it is stripped of its traditional nomenclature and given the identifier GBU, which stands for “Guided Bomb Unit”.
Bombs with JDAM, according to the Navy, are very versatile. This quality is due to the fact that the coordinates of the targets can be loaded in different instances: before takeoff, during the flight, and automatically, with information based on the aircraft’s sensors. In addition, the system allows attacking several targets at the same timeor fire multiple GBUs at the same target.
An evolving system
Although the ability to split a ship in two with a single bomb is new, the existence of this type of weapon dates back to 1997. Over the years, the US has used GBUs in different theaters of war, while, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), has been improving the system to make it more accurate and compatible with different types of bombs.
On April 28, the AFRL put its latest version of the system to the test. In collaboration with Eglin Air Force Base launched from a fighter-bomber F-15E Strike Eagle a 900 kilo bomb GBU-31 on the west coast of Florida. The impact occurred on a large ship (its dimensions were not mentioned) that in its operational times had been a freighter. As a result, she began to sink in less than a minute and completely disappeared after 39 seconds.
Following the success of the test, the US will continue to develop this technology “to provide new capabilities to existing and future weapons systems.” Over time we will see if they manage to improve the costs, which currently stand at about $25,000 per unit, their range, which is 24 kilometers, and their accuracy, which is assisted by GPS and laser.
Pictures | Air Force Research Laboratory
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism