$108.1M for 13,280 “Cans of Whup-Ass”
Textron Systems Corp. in Wilmington, MA received a $108.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 332 Full Rate Production (FRP) Sensor Fuzed Weapons (SFW), in support of the F-16 aircraft. Work will be complete by March 2008, and the Headquarters Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, FL issued the contract (FA8677-06-C-0010). There is no contract modification number at this time.
What’s a “Sensor Fuzed Weapon,” and how does that relate to the title?
Each CBU-97/B SFW comprises an SUU-66/B bomb with an FZU-39 fuze. Each bomb contains 10 BLU-108/B submunitions shaped roughly like a long cylinder, and each submunition contains four projectiles that look like tuna cans. Thus, each SFW can deliver a total of 40 lethal projectiles (332 SFWs x 40 = 13,280), covering an area of 40 acres.
Upon being thrown out, the projectiles use 2-color infrared and laser profiling to rapidly locate and identify their targets, such as a tank, armored vehicle, parked aircraft, et. al. If they lock on to a target, they fire a self-forging, high-velocity slug, which uses up the projectile while striking the target with the impact of a tank cannon.
As part of Textron’s “Clean Battlefield” initiative, if am SFW’s Skeet warhead doesn’t detect a valid target, one of its 3 safety modes will activate. The first 2 modes enable the Skeet to self destruct after 8 seconds from launch, or within a 50 foot altitude above the ground. The Skeet’s 3rd feature is a time out device that will render the warhead inert minutes after hitting the ground. These features prevent the bomb’s munitions from becoming a future danger to civilians – or to one’s own troops, who can move through the area safely after the CBU-97 has been used. US SMSgt John Knipe is quoted as saying that in the initial battles for Iraq:
“We felt very comfortable that the CBU-105 [GP-guided variant] having a zero dud rate would be a factor in forces moving through that area. So, it was an easy call for us to make to drop CBU-105s…”
SFWs are very effective force-multipliers, as this March 1998 Air Force Magazine article “The Devastating Impact of Sensor Fuzed Weapons” attests. The article also describes the weapon’s delivery options from various altitudes, as well as targeting options that include self-targeted, third party cued, and third party guidance.
Initially, the Air Force figured the SFW’s primary carriers would be F-16, F-15, and A-10 fighter-attack aircraft, but later added the B-52, B-1B, and even B-2 bombers as well. The cluster bombs have also been transitioned to CBU-105 WCMD, using a strap-on GPS/INS guidance system for cluster bombs just as JDAM kits are added to conventional bombs.
A B-1 Lancer heavy bomber can carry up to 30 of these weapons, for instance, for a total of 1,200 projectiles! The likely operational load of SFWs is 4 per F-16 Falcon, 12 per F-15E Strike Eagle, 10 per A-10 Thunderbolt II, 16 per B-52 Stratofortress, and up to 34 for the B-2 Spirit.
Sensor Fuzed Munitions have been described as “Pandora’s Box Bombs” before in the popular press, but the American slang term strikes us as a much better description under the circumstances.
- Textron Defense Systems – Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW).
- Textron Defense systems – SFW Video. Includes a 2003 press briefing from Operation Iraqi Freedom, after 2 CBU-105s dropped by a B-52 bomber wiped out 1/3 of a Iraqi tank column, and caused the rest to immediately surrender to the US Marines who had been calling for help.