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US Air Force tests long-range sea mines for Indo-Pacific

An inert Joint Direct Attack Munition QuickStrike Extended Range mine is attached to a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., in early March, 2023. Photo: US Air Force.

The United States Air Force has successfully tested long-range deployment of sea mines from a B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber.

The United States Air Force has successfully tested long-range deployment of sea mines from a B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber.

Personnel from the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron were able to deploy inert Joint Direct Attack Munition QuickStrike extended range mines from a stand-off distance of more than 40 miles (around 64 kilometres).

The test occurred off the coast of Hawaii at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in early March this year.

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Traditionally, mines are dropped unguided from lower altitude at multiple intervals, making the carrying aircraft susceptible to a high level of risk in contested water.

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Spinelli, 49th TES Commander said the QS-ER mine merges the concept of an Mk64 underwater mine to the GBU-64v1 JDAM extended range variant, resulting in a 2,000-pound QS-ER mine.

“What’s unique about QS-ER is its range and precision,” he said.

“We can now release in a Launch Acceptability Region at various speeds and altitudes and have the weapon land with incredible accuracy.

“This reduces the number of weapons needed to affect the minefield and makes the delivery platform more survivable.”

The most recent test marks the fourth operational demo since QS-ER inception, as the program pursues flight certification for a 12-store carriage from the B-52H to meet initial operational capability.

“The strategic environment demands we move faster and we, in the 53rd Wing, are taking that to heart, thinking and executing outside the normal while adhering to test rigour to bring new capability to the warfighter and combatant commanders as fast we can; we aren’t speeding, we are setting new speed limits,” said Lt Col Spinelli.

The test event was led by a collaborative effort between the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, 53rd Wing, 307th Bomb Wing, and the 780th Test Squadron to advance US Indo-Pacific Command maritime capabilities.

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