Home Air Australian F-35As employ first locally-manufactured BLU-111 bombs

Australian F-35As employ first locally-manufactured BLU-111 bombs

Locally-manufactured bomb loaded onto Australian F-35A
Armament Technicians from No. 3 Squadron, load a new Australian manufactured Bomb Live Unit (BLU 111) configured as a Guided Bomb Unit (GBU-12) onto F-35A at RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW. Photo: Royal Australian Air Force

Australia has taken another step towards developing sovereign sustainability with the Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 81 Wing accepting and successfully expending the first Australian manufactured BLU-111 bomb body.

The 500lb high-explosive warhead was delivered to No. 3 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown last year, where it was configured by armament technicians as a Paveway II laser guided bomb before being loaded onto the F-35A Lightning II for a training sortie.

The BLU-111(AUS)B/B is designed as a direct replacement for the older-generation Mk82 500lb warheads, delivering comparable performance while improving safety characteristics.

AIR6000 Weapons Project Engineering Manager, Squadron Leader Ryan Kell said once fully introduced into service, the BLU-111(AUS)B/B would be used as the go-to 500lb high-explosive warhead for Air Force during operations and training exercises.

“The BLU-111(AUS)B/B is intended for use in both Paveway II laser guided bombs and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) family of guided bombs,” Squadron Leader Kell said.

“The development and production of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B has been an ongoing collaboration between the United States government, Defence and Australian industry, specifically the manufacturer, Australian Munitions.”

Sovereign production of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B started after the success of BLU-126(AUS)/B, a 500lb low-collateral bomb which first demonstrated Australian ability to produce reduced sensitivity warheads using locally manufactured ingredients for the explosive fill.

Squadron Leader Kell said a key benefit of sovereign production was the ability to continue improving safety and performance of weapons to best meet Air Force’s needs.

“The design is based on the US manufactured BLU-111B/B, but has been tailored to meet Australian production methods while providing improved safety characteristics,” Squadron Leader Kell said.

“Aircraft bomb warheads have been produced in Australia for a number of decades, but the BLU-111(AUS)B/B warhead represents a generational change in explosives manufacture and safety technologies through use of a polymer-bonded explosive fill and design features which reduce the likelihood of the warhead detonating in the event of a safety incident.”

While initial use of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B is primarily by the F-35A, future use of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B is likely to extend beyond No. 81 Wing to include Hawk 127 lead-in fighter, F/A-18F Super Hornet and future platforms such as the MQ-9B Sky Guardian, which will employ 500lb-class weapons.

Air Force Director Combat Capability, Group Captain Guy Adams said this warhead represents the next step in Australian defence industry supplying sovereign manufactured weapons for use by current and future air combat platforms.

“Having 500lb bombs produced in Australia increases our self-reliance and resilience of our air-combat platforms and the warfighting capability they provide,” Group Captain Adams said.

“As a future line of effort, the ability to act as a second line of supply to allied nations could see Australia providing warheads for use by allies during operations or training, which would greatly enhance international relationships and interoperability.”