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Video: Air Force splits ship in half with newly modified ship-killer bomb

Air Force and Navy's modified JDAM ship-killer bomb in an Apr. 28, 2022 test. (Air Force Research Laboratory/Released)
May 06, 2022

The Air Force released a new video last week showing the second test of a newly modified bomb dropped by an F-15 fighter jet splitting a ship target in half and instantly sinking it.

The test was held April 28 at the 12,000-square mile Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) said in a press release.

The munition is a modified 2000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) for the QUICKSINK Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) a program funded by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and carried out jointly by the AFRL and the U.S. Navy.

The test signals a leap in the Air Force’s capabilities to sink ships as it can deploy them at a higher rate over a broader target area. The new bomb is a lighter and cheaper way of striking maritime targets instead of the traditional submarine-launched torpedoes like the MK-48, which are heavy and expensive.

“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.”

The AFRL released a simulated video in March showing how it works.

JDAMs have a range of up to 15 miles and cost approximately $24,000, according to a Navy fact sheet. F-15E fighter jets were authorized to carry nine JDAMs, but in a “bomb truck” configuration can carry up to 15 JDAMs. A B-52 bomber can carry 80 JDAMs.

“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,” said Kirk Herzog, AFRL program manager.

The modified JDAM is capable of hitting both stationary and moving maritime targets. While it isn’t self-propelled, the bomb is guided by GPS, and relies on the velocity generated from being dropped by the aircraft.  

“QUICKSINK is an answer to an urgent need to neutralize maritime threats to freedom around the world,” said Col. Tony Meeks, director of AFRL’s Munitions Directorate. “The men and women of this directorate consistently find ways to solve our nation’s greatest challenges.”