B-1B Lancers Receive Weapons Upgrades
The 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base has been working with the USA’s B-1B Lancer heavy bomber to upgrade their weapons carrying abilities. The results will increase the non-stealth bomber’s ability to deliver weapons into heavily defended areas, and enhance its value as a maritime strike aircraft as well.
On July 25/05 two Lancers from Dyess auto-released a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile over the White Sands Missile Range, NM, as well as firing three dissimilar weapons from the same launcher. The AGM-158 JASSM missile is part of the B-1 Joint Standoff Weapon/ JASSM Integration (JJI) program, an extension of the B-1B’s Block E system upgrades and one part of the overall B-1B conventional mission upgrade program.
Following these tests, the 7th Bomb Wing became the first unit to achieve initial operational capability of the new JASSM cruise missile as of Aug. 18/05. This means that the missile is now able to be used in combat operations.
The JASSM was designed to fly up to 200 miles into highly defended airspace as an independent cruise missile, in order to reduce the risks of attacking high-value fixed targets without forcing the USAF to use more expensive missiles like the AGM-68C/D CALCM, whose 600+ mile range and complex self-guiding systems may be overkill.
The AGM-158A JASSM has a stealth-enhanced design, and is powered by a Teledyne CAE J402 turbojet. It uses flip-out wings with control surfaces and a single vertical tail for flight control, is guided by a jamming-resistant GPS-aided inertial navigation system, and uses an IIR (Imaging Infrared) seeker for final stage target selection and homing. The missile is armed with a 450 kg (1000 lb) penetrating warhead, and accuracy is quoted as around 2.4 m (8 ft) CEP (Circular Error Probable). The AGM-158A is also equipped with a data link to transmit status and location information until impact to assist bomb damage assessment.
In addition to carrying one JASSM each, both B-1B Lancers used in the White Sands demonstration carried 28 MK-82 500-pound free-fall, general purpose “dumb” bombs, one GBU-38 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM GPS-guided bomb), one GBU-31 2,000-pound JDAM, and an MK-84 2,000-pound general purpose “dumb” bomb. Prior to the White Sands demonstration, the B-1B and 337th TES accomplished another first June 21 when a Lancer over the Gulf of Mexico dropped a Cluster Bomb Unit-105 wind corrected munitions dispenser (WCMD) on a moving maritime target in support of Sinking Exercise East.
These missions’ success was made possible by the final testing of new offensive avionics software designated as Sustainment Block 10. An enhanced version of the Lancer’s flight software, SB-10 provides advanced weapons patterning capability and the ability to load more than one type of weapon in each of the B-1’s three weapons bays.
In the past, a set of target coordinates had to be entered for every guided weapon prior to release, but with SB-10 systems it’s possible to specify the number of weapons in a linear or circular spacing around a single set of coordinates, greatly improving the ability to strike a maneuvering target.
Officials said that once these upgrades are completed, the B-1B will have the largest JASSM capability in the Air Force with a maximum capacity of 24 missiles. Other platforms that are capable of carrying the JASSM are the vintage B-52 Stratofortress, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Other planes like the F-15E et. al. are also scheduled to receive JASSM integration in future. Story link.