South Korea Buying GPS-Guided WCMD Cluster Bombs
In June 2012, the US DSCA announced South Korea’s formal request to buy up to 367 CBU-105D/B Wind Corrected Munition Dispenser (WCMD) Sensor Fuzed Weapons and associated parts, equipment, logistical support and training, for an estimated cost of up to $325 million.
South Korea has been moving to modernize its air force, from F-15K Slam Eagle fighter buys, to talk of modernizing its F-16 fleet, to the imminent introduction of its own FA-50 lightweight fighter, in partnership with Lockheed Martin. Its latest move would buy a formidable vehicle and boat-killing weapon that could be used from any of these fighters. So, what is a WCMD?
What’s a WCMD?
A WCMD is the American slang expression “can of whup-ass” come to life.
In more technical terms, it’s a GPS-guided cluster bomb, whose bomblets are smart and designed to kill large targets like armored vehicles. Each Textron CBU-97/B Sensor Fuzed Weapon comprises an SUU-66/B bomb with an FZU-39 fuze. Each bomb can deliver a total of 40 lethal, self-guided projectiles, covering an area of 40 acres. These tuna-can shaped, penetrator-forging top attack weapons are deadly against enemy armored forces, but would be equally effective against small boat swarms. Safety features prevent unexploded projectiles from becoming a future hazard.
If Lockheed Martin’s WCMD tail kit is added to a Sensor-Fuzed Weapon cluster bomb, it becomes GPS-guided, and can be dropped with great accuracy from altitudes beyond the reach of low-level air defenses.
North Korea has a lot of tanks, and not a lot of sophisticated air defense missiles that work at higher altitudes. South Korea saw what WCMD weapons did to Iraq’s Republican Guard, and evidently thinks they would be a nifty way to counterpunch any North Korean invasion attempt.
WCMDs are popular weapons. India is a recent customer, Taiwan recently put in a request of its own, and so has Saudi Arabia.
Contracts & Key Events
May 29/14: Contract. Textron Defense Systems in Wilmington, MA receives a $190.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for South Korea, involving 361 sensor fuzed weapons, 18 WCMD tail kits, and 7 trainers.
Work will be performed at Wilmington, MA and is expected to be complete by Dec 31/16. The USAF Life Cycle Management Center/OO-ALC/EBHKA at Hill AFB, UT acts as Korea’s agent (FA8213-14-C-0017).
June 4/12: DSCA request. The US DSCA allows the Republic of Korea’s official request [PDF] to buy possible sale of 367 CBU-105D/B Wind Corrected Munition Dispenser (WCMD) Sensor Fuzed Weapons (SFW), 18 spare GPS-guided tail kits for maintenance float, plus 28 Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM) for exercises, 7 Dummy Air Training Missiles (DATM) for flight practice, communication equipment, electronic warfare systems, support equipment, spare engine containers, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, technical data and publications, personnel training and training equipment, and other US government and contractor services.
The estimated cost is $325 million, but actual prices will depend on negotiations. The prime contractor will be Textron Systems Corporation of Wilmington, MA. Implementation of this proposed sale will require annual trips to the Republic of Korea involving up to 2 U.S. Government and 3 contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, and program management for a period of approximately 2 years.
The request’s inclusion of “engine containers” is add, as WCMDs aren’t powered weapons. Ditto “electronic warfare systems,” which apply to fighter jets but not bombs. It’s likely that the request has lumped the WCMD buy in with minor purchases for one of its fighter fleets, without specifying which fleet. The DSCA adds that:
“The Republic of Korea intends to use these CBU-105D/B Sensor Fuzed Weapons to modernize its armed forces and enhance its capability to defeat a wide range of enemy defenses including fortifications, armored vehicles, and maritime threats… Employment of the CBU-105D/B Sensor Fuzed Weapon will not result in more than one percent unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational environments. The agreement applicable to the transfer of the CBU-105D/B and the CBU-105D/B integration test assets will contain a statement by the Government of the Republic of Korea that the cluster munitions and cluster munitions technology will be used only against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.”
DSCA request: WCMD (367)