The Air Force is testing a new bunker-busting bσmb that could counter North Korea and Iran
Air Force weαpσns testers are vetting a new 5,000-pound bσmb that could become a bunker-busting tool against North Korean or Iranian nuclear facilities.
An F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet with the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, wrapped up a slate of assessments Oct. 7 when it dropped a GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator bσmb from 35,000 feet over the installation’s vast test range, the service said in a release Tuesday.
The Air Force first tried loading, flying and releasing the weαpσn — which is a BLU-138 penetrator warhead combined with a modified Joint Direct Attack Munition GPS guidance kit and tail assembly — in July. The three-part series of tests aimed to prove whether the F-15E could safely fire the bσmb guided by a JDAM tail kit used on a lighter, 2,000-pound bσmb.
Rather than letting a weαpσn rely on gravity to fall directly down onto a target, JDAM converts “dumb” bσmbs into GPS-guided munitions that can hit particular coordinates.
“In addition to the successful flight test series, the ground test series was Eglin’s largest-ever arena test, surpassing the previous titleholder by more than double,” the Air Force said. “The arena test, an open-air test where the warhead detonates surrounded by blast pressure sensors and fragment counting equipment, helps to determine the weαpσn’s lethality.”
The GBU-72 is designed to fly on fighter and bσmber aircraft, though the Air Force hasn’t said which airframes could take on the new weαpσn other than the F-15E.
The Air Force has been researching the 5,000-pound weαpσn since at least 2017, and plans to begin buying them within the next year at a total cost of $36 million for 125 units, according to fiscal 2022 budget documents.