Courtesy Air Force Research Laboratory

U.S. Air Force Tests New Ship-Sinking Bomb in Gulf of Mexico

Mike Schuler
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May 3, 2022

The U.S. Air Force has demonstrated a lethal new weapon that could provide a low-cost and more widely-available alternative to sinking ships with traditional torpedoes.

The new weapon, known as the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, was tested during a demonstration last month in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the second experiment in the QUICKSINK Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, funded by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

During the test, a modified 2,000-pound modified JDAM precision-guided bomb was launched from an F-15E Strike Eagle onto a full-scale ship in the Gulf of Mexico, successfully sinking the vessel in a matter of seconds.

While torpedoes predominantly sink enemy ships via submarines, QUICKSINK is exploring new method to achieve similar anti-ship lethality with air-launched weapons.

“Heavy-weight torpedoes are effective [at sinking large ships] but are expensive and employed by a small portion of naval assets,” said Maj. Andrew Swanson, 85th TES division chief of Advanced Programs. “With QUICKSINK, we have demonstrated a low-cost and more agile solution that has the potential to be employed by the majority of Air Force combat aircraft, providing combatant commanders and warfighters with more options.”

An F-15E Strike Eagle at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, with modified 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions as part of the second test in the QUICKSINK Joint Capability Technology Demonstration. (U.S. Air Force photo / 1st Lt Lindsey Heflin)

The demonstration was conducted by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Eglin’s Integrated Test Team at Elgin’s 120,000 square mile Gulf Test and Training Range.

AFRL scientists and engineers are developing a weapon open systems architecture, or WOSA. According to AFRL, the QUICKSINK program, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Navy, aims to provide options to “neutralize surface maritime threats” while demonstrating inherent flexibility. This latest experiment allowed researchers to assess the scientific and technological challenges associated with the QUICKSINK concept for operational use.

“QUICKSINK is unique in that it can provide new capabilities to existing and future DOD weapons systems, giving combatant commanders and our national leaders new ways to defend against maritime threats,” said Kirk Herzog, AFRL program manager.

“A Navy submarine has the ability to launch and destroy a ship with a single torpedo at any time, but the QUICKSINK JCTD aims to develop a low-cost method of achieving torpedo-like kills from the air at a much higher rate and over a much larger area,” added Herzog.

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