US Air Force’s F-15E successfully releases bunker breaker bomb for first time

The US Air Force has completed a series of tests with the new GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator weapon. The bunker breaker bomb was successfully released at 35,000 feet (10.66 km) by an F-15E Strike Eagle from the 96th Test Wing on July 23.

The 5,000-pound bomb’s release marked the end of a test series planned by the 780th Test Squadron and performed by the 40th Flight Test Squadron. The test objectives were to show the weapon could safely release from the aircraft and validate a modified 2,000-pound joint-direct-attack-munition tail kit’s ability to control and navigate a 5,000-pound weapon.

The test series consisted of three flights, which were much more complex since these were the first releases of the GBU-72 weapons. In addition to the series of successful test flights, the ground test series was Eglin’s largest-ever arena test. The arena test, an open-air where the warhead detonates surrounded by blast pressure sensors and fragment counting equipment, helps to determine the weapon’s lethality.

The success of the flight test series depended on the 780th TS’s planners and the 40th FLTS’s aircrews making the right choices, creating new procedures, and adjusting quickly to ensure the weapon was released correctly, and the mission remained on schedule.

The GBU-72 was designed for both fighter and bomber aircraft and developed to overcome hardened, deeply buried target challenges. The weapon’s design and projected effectiveness were developed using advanced modeling and simulation techniques and processes before the first warhead was forged. This is a repeatable process for all future direct attack weapons. Lethality is expected to be substantially higher compared to similar legacy weapons like the GBU-28, according to James Culliton, GBU-72 Program Manager.

“An advantage to the modeling and simulation to design approach used is early prototypes are production representative,” said Culliton. “This helps us bring our operational test partners in sooner with eyes on, hands-on participation, validating our design and procedures sooner while including input that improves the weapon. The collaboration we’ve enjoyed with the 780th TS and 40th FLTS to this end has been the best I’ve experienced in acquisitions.”

The GBU-72 program will now move on to additional JDAM integration test flights and developmental and operational testing in 2022.

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