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Monday, December 19, 2016

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Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan

In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 

Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 

For our eighteenth installment let's take a look at the most common Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) used in the War in Afghanistan. The JDAM is a guidance kit that converts unguided bombs, or "dumb bombs", into all-weather "smart" munitions. JDAM-equipped bombs are guided by an integrated inertial guidance system coupled to a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, giving them a published range of up to 15 nautical miles. JDAM-equipped bombs range from 500 pounds to 2,000 pounds. When installed on a bomb, the JDAM kit is given a GBU (Guided Bomb Unit) nomenclature, superseding the Mark 80 or BLU (Bomb, Live Unit) nomenclature of the bomb to which it is attached. The JDAM was meant to improve upon laser-guided bomb and imaging infrared technology, which can be hindered by bad ground and weather conditions.


Part I: The United States


The GBU-31 JDAMs are based on the Mark 84 amd BLU-109/B dumb bombs that are fitted with the JDAM system.

GBU-31(V)1/B (USAF) & GBU-31(V)2/B (USN/USMC):

The Mark 84 has a nominal weight of 2,000 lbs, but its actual weight varies depending on its fin, fuze options, and retardation configuration, from 1,972 to 2,083 lbs. It is a streamlined steel casing filled with 945 lbs of Tritonal high explosive.

The Mark 84 is capable of forming a crater 50 feet wide and 36 ft deep. It can penetrate up to 15 inches (381.0 mm) of metal or 11 ft (3.4 m) of concrete, depending on the height from which it is dropped, and causes lethal fragmentation to a radius of 400 yards (365.8 m).

Many Mark 84s have been retrofitted with stabilizing and retarding devices to provide precision guidance capabilities. They serve as the warhead of a variety of precision-guided munitions, including the GBU-31 JDAM (V)1/B & (V)2/B.

GBU-31(V)3/B (USAF) & GBU-31(V)4/B (USN/USMC):

The BLU-109/B is a hardened penetration bomb used by the United States Air Force. As with other "bunker busters", it is intended to smash through concrete shelters and other hardened structures before exploding.

The BLU-109/B has a steel casing about 1 inch (25.4 mm) thick, filled with 530 lb (240 kg) of Tritonal. It has a delayed-action tail-fuze. The BLU-109 entered service in 1985. It is also used as the warhead of the GBU-31 JDAM (V)3/B & (V)4/B. This weapon can penetrate 4–6 feet of reinforced concrete. The BLU-109 is not likely to be retired anytime soon, due to the much larger blast capable from its warhead.

GBU-32 / 35 JDAM

The GBU-32 & 35 JDAMs are based on the Mark 83 and BLU-110 dumb bombs that are fitted with the JDAM system.

The Mark 83 is part of the Mark 80 series of low-drag general-purpose bombs in United States service.

The nominal weight of the bomb is 1,000 lbs, although its actual weight varies between 985 and 1,030 lbs, depending on fuze options, and fin configuration. The Mk 83 is a streamlined steel casing containing 445 lbs of Tritonal high explosive. When filled with PBXN-109 thermally insensitive explosive, the bomb is designated BLU-110.

The Mk 83/BLU-110 is used as the warhead for a variety of precision-guided weapons, including the GBU-32 (Mk 83) and GBU-35 (BLU-110) JDAMs.

This bomb is most typically used by the United States Navy.

GBU-38 / 54 JDAM

The GBU-38 & 54 JDAMs are based on the Mk 82 dumb bomb fitted with the JDAM system; the GBU-38 uses the original JDAM system, while the GBU-54 uses a JDAM system with an integrated laser guidance system.

The Mark 82 (Mk 82) is a low-drag, general-purpose bomb, part of the U.S. Mark 80 series. The explosive filling is usually Tritonal, though other compositions have sometimes been used.

With a nominal weight of 500 lbs, it is the one of the smallest in current service, and one of the most common air-dropped weapons in the world. Although the Mk 82's nominal weight is 500 lb, its actual weight varies considerably depending on its configuration, from 510 to 570 lbs. It is a streamlined steel casing containing 192 lbs of Tritonal high explosive. The Mk 82 is offered with a variety of fin kits, fuzes, and retarders for different purposes.

The Mk 82 is the warhead for the GBU-38 and GBU-54 (Laser Guided) JDAM.

The Mk 82 is currently undergoing a minor redesign to allow it to meet the insensitive munitions requirements set by Congress.

Shawn G in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

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Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


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