Home Air US Air Force drops new GBU-72 penetrator bomb for first time

US Air Force drops new GBU-72 penetrator bomb for first time

GBU-72 bunker-busting bomb test
The 96th Test Wing recently concluded a GBU-72 test series that featured the first ever load, flight and release of the 5,000-pound weapon. Photo: US Air Force

A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from the 96th Test Wing released a GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator bomb for the first time on October 7.

The 5,000-pound bomb’s release at 35,000 feet over the Eglin Air Force Base range marked the end of a test series planned by the 780th Test Squadron and performed by the 40th Flight Test Squadron.

That series included the first-ever weapons load, flight and release of the weapon July 23. The squadron’s test goals 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, deemed a success by the Armament Directorate’s Direct Attack Division, consisted of three flights. Those flights and drops were made much more complex since this was the first GBU-72 release.

In addition to the successful flight test series, the ground test series was Eglin’s largest-ever arena test, surpassing the previous titleholder by more than double. The arena test, an open-air test where the warhead detonates surrounded by blast pressure sensors and fragment counting equipment, helps to determine the weapon’s lethality. The 780th TS also planned this test event.

Photo: US Air Force

The Armament Directorate recently commended the squadron with the External Team of the Quarter award for its GBU-72 program efforts.

The GBU-72 was developed to overcome hardened deeply buried target challenges and designed for both fighter and bomber aircraft. The weapon design and its projected effectiveness were developed using advanced modeling and simulation techniques and processes before the first warhead was forged. 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 now moves on to additional JDAM integration test flights and developmental and operational testing in 2022.