Alaska's F-22 stealth fighter jets became the first operational Raptors to drop GBU-39 small diameter bombs
It happened during exercise Combat Hammer, a weapon system evaluation program sponsored by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron, in the Utah Test and Training Range, “the only location in the U.S. where the F-22s can employ SDBs at speeds and altitudes unique to the Raptor,” said Maj. Wade Bridges, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron.
The Alaska’s F-22s have received the software increment 3.1 that enables them to drop the 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating, blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets; equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range.
Among the Lessons Learned of the Air War in Libya, there was the need to employ SDBs to improve accuracy and reduce collateral damage.
The SDB is currently integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle whereas all the remaining U.S. bombers (including the F-35) will get the GBU-39 in the future. The Italian and Israeli air forces have procured this kind of weapon as well.
Separation tests on the Raptor began in Sept. 2007.
The training event allowed for Total Force Integration across the F-22 fleet: pilots from both the 302nd and the 525th Fighter Squadrons and maintainers from the 3rd Maintenance Group and the 477th Fighter Group deployed from Alaska to take part in the exercise, alongside the Hawaii’s 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons pilots and associated ground personnel who took part to this Combat Hammer as well.
The successful delivery of air-to-ground weapons marks an important step for the Hawaiian Raptors towards declaration of Initial Operational Capability.
As the debate about the F-22 “invicibility” goes on after the confrontation with the Eurofighter Typhoon during the Red Flag Alaska, the integration of the SDB is another good news for the troubled stealthy fleet which follows the one about a gradual lifting of restrictions imposed by the hypoxia like symptoms plaguiing the aircraft missions in the last two years.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
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