An interesting shot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet carrying double GBU-31 JDAMs payload.
The image in this post depicts an F/A-18E Super Hornet belonging to the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81 “Sunliners” launching from the flight deck of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) as the ship conducts flight operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.
What makes the photograph interesting is the rather unusual loadout of the aircraft: two 2,000-lb GBU-31s carried under the right hand wing.
GBU-31s are heavy JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), Mk-84 general purpose gravity bombs which integrate a GPS/INS guidance kit to improve accuracy and are suitable for those targets where adverse weather may affect laser guidance.
JDAMs autonomously navigate towards their designated target coordinates that can be loaded into the aircraft before take off, or manually or automatically entered through the onboard targeting system.
Although the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet carry JDAMs and, in particular, GBU-31s as a standard payload, you won’t find many images showing other “Rhinos” (as the Super Hornet is nicknamed in the U.S. Navy community) carrying two heavy 2,000-lb GBU-31s under the same wing: a sign that the coalition is still looking for targets in Syria and Iraq which require a significant destructive power and blast radius.
Generally speaking, U.S. Navy jets as well as other coalition aircraft carry a mixed-payload which may include lighter JDAMs and LGBs (Laser Guided Bombs), for more flexibility against targets of opporunity.
Image credit: U.S. Navy