Locally manufactured next-generation warheads have been accepted into service by the RAAF.
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BLU-111(AUS)B/B warheads have been delivered to No. 3 Squadron of the No. 81 Wing at RAAF Base Williamtown.
The 500-pound (227-kilogram) high-explosive warheads were configured by armament technicians as a Paveway II laser guided bomb before being loaded onto the F-35A Lightning II for a training drill.
The BLU-111(AUS)B/B warheads, built with improved safety characteristics, replace the Mk82 500lb explosives.
The next-generation warheads are expected to be used as the primary 500lb high-explosive warhead for RAAF 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,” AIR 6000 Weapons Project Engineering Manager, Squadron Leader Ryan 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.”
Local production of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B commenced following the successful delivery of the BLU-126(AUS)/B, 500lb low-collateral bomb, which demonstrated capacity to produce reduced sensitivity warheads using locally manufactured ingredients for the explosive fill.
SQNLDR Kell noted the benefits of sovereign munitions production.
“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,” SQNLDR 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.”
Use of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B is expected to extend beyond operation by the F-35A fleet, likely extending to the Hawk 127 lead-in fighter, F/A-18F Super Hornet and future platforms like the unmanned MQ-9B Sky Guardian.
“Having 500lb bombs produced in Australia increases our self-reliance and resilience of our air-combat platforms and the warfighting capability they provide,” Air Force Director Combat Capability, Group Captain Guy 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.”