When on the hunt for enemy warships, torpedoes are usually the ideal ship-killer. They pack an enormous explosive punch — literally capable of breaking a ship’s keel — and are difficult to defend against. But, the Air Force is exploring ways to target ships and other maritime targets from the air.
In an announcement, the U.S. Air Force outlined a recent test in which four F-15Es equipped with modified GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions validated the Air Force’s plan to sink ships from the air.
An Air Force Major and F-15E weapon systems officer explained why the novel GBU-31 employment is necessary. “For any large moving ship, the Air Force’s primary weapon is the 2,000-pound laser-guided GBU-24,” a family of glide-type bombs. “Not only is this weapon less than ideal, it also reduces our survivability based on how it must be employed. This munition can change all of that.”
Although the GBU-24 is known for pinpoint accuracy in ideal weather conditions, the bomb’s laser guidance sensor depends on a clear and uninterrupted laser tracking connection. In adverse weather conditions — through fog, rain, clouds, or weather phenomena like heavy smoke or dust — the bomb’s laser seeker cannot maintain contact, adversely affecting accuracy.
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