March 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 10 
Integrated Defense Systems

Right. On target.

With JDAM, pilots have confidence in missions


U.S. Air Force Maj. Mike ShowerOn April 17, 2004, flying a mission over Iraq, U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle pilot Maj. David Grimwood and his weapons systems officer, Lt. Col. Jim Bessel, dropped a 2,000-pound (907- kilogram) Joint Direct Attack Munition on a suspected hideout for insurgents.

It was Maj. Grimwood's first drop of a JDAM. "We had a strike request from the Army," he said. "It was against a position insurgents had used for several nights to fire mortars at a U.S. Army base. We don't know if insurgents were there at the time the bomb went off, but we do know that for the next week, that army unit never got attacked."

Maj. Grimwood and hundreds of other pilots and weapons systems officers (WSOs) who have dropped tens of thousands of JDAMs have been singing the weapon's praises since 1998 when the first JDAM was produced.

The JDAM is a low-cost guidance kit that converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurately guided "smart" weapons. The Boeing-built kit consists of a new tail section that contains an Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System.

Maj. Grimwood now teaches the use of air-to-ground weapons at the 507th Combat Training Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and JDAM is a big part of his lesson plans. He said the weapon's accuracy and reliability have changed the way fighter pilots and war planners do business.

"If it's a preplanned target, we can go at it with JDAM with high confidence, drop the thing in whatever weather, and know that it's going to hit the target," he said.

That isn't possible with laser-guided bombs. Without clear weather and good visibility, laser-guided bombs can't be used.

"We have put a tremendous effort into LGB attacks only to get out there and find that the visibility isn't good enough for the laser," said F-15E pilot Maj. Craig Baker. "But if we have a mixed weapons load with JDAM, we can put the effort into the planning and know we can drop it no matter what once we get there."

A laser-guided JDAM is being tested, and once it becomes operational, the JDAM will be the most versatile weapon on top of being the most accurate.

The measure of effectiveness

Maj. Craig Baker is considered to be an authority on bombs for the U.S. Air Force. He's a fighter pilot who has flown missions for Operation Northern Watch, Operation Southern Watch and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He's dropped more than 30 Joint Direct Attack Munitions during more than 70 sorties over Iraq, and he taught the use of weapons for more than three years at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School.

But he said the most interesting thing he has done with JDAMs wasn't in the air or in the classroom. It was on the ground with a tape measure. Two months after Operation Iraqi Freedom started in March 2003, Baker was part of a Combined Weapons Effectiveness Assessment Team that went into Baghdad to measure—as in with a tape measure—the effectiveness of JDAMs.

The CWEAT was able to measure the accuracy of each JDAM variant and saw firsthand JDAM's ability to target just one building and leave the rest of the neighborhood standing.

"Everything said about the JDAM was proven with me being able to take an actual tape measure, and measure where the bomb landed, [and compare] against the coordinates put into the bomb; and the results were very good." Baker said.

—Chris Haddox

Among JDAM's benefits is that to a pilot and his weapons systems officer, the ability to "drop it no matter what" is a tremendous confidence booster, even before takeoff. Maj. Mike Shower can vouch for that statement. He is the Operational Test and Evaluation pilot at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. and the first F-15C pilot ever to drop a JDAM from an F/A-22 Raptor. Boeing builds the F-15 and the F/A-22 wings and aft fuselage and is responsible for integrating and testing its advanced avionics.

"As the Operational Test Pilot, I was a little nervous because I didn't want to screw it up, but it was very straightforward," Shower said. "I was flying straight and level and when I hit the pickle button—'dunk, dunk'—two JDAMs came off, and hit the target."

Not only is JDAM's ease-of-use a confidence booster, it also lets pilots get the job done in a high-threat environment. Shower said it actually changes a pilot's mindset, especially one flying the F/A-22. "Using the JDAM on the Raptor doesn't impact the capability. You retain the stealth, the speed, everything," he said.

With JDAM's accuracy, the one-bomb concept is what pilots and WSOs get.

Baker should know. He's flown more than 70 sorties over Iraq and has dropped more than 30 JDAMs.

"Take for example a bridge, where you would have had to apply thousands of dumb bombs in order to take it out," Baker explained. "Now you can take out two bridges with just two weapons."

For all the capability it has, Shower said JDAM is exactly what the Air Force needs and what pilots want: "It's a fire-and-forget weapon. I can drop that bomb and I can do everything I need to do to survive."

JDAM fast facts

There are four Joint Direct Attack Munition variants: MK-84 (2,000-pound, or 907-kilogram); BLU-109 (2,000-pound); MK-83 (1,000-pound, or 453-kilogram); and MK-82 (500-pound, or 227-kilogram). All JDAM tail kits are built at Boeing's Weapons Enterprise Capability Center in St. Charles, Mo. Here are some more facts about JDAM.

  • Every JDAM has been delivered on time and on budget.
  • JDAM is designed to last for 20 years with no required maintenance or calibrations.
  • JDAM production began in March 1998 and doubled every year to 2003.
  • Boeing produces one JDAM every seven minutes.
  • Boeing delivered the 100,000th JDAM tail kit in December 2004.
  • JDAM has 23 primary suppliers. Supplier quality is 99.9 percent, and delivery performance is 99.5 percent on delivery of more than 1 million parts in 2004.
  • JDAM is integrated on every U.S. fighter and bomber in production.
  • Customers include the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, 12 international air forces and one international navy customer.
  • JDAM is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most accurate bomb.


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