A first for the US Air Force’s veteran B-52 Stratofortress was achieved recently when the Joint Attack Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) from the type’s internal weapons bay.
The achievement was announced on August 12 by officials from the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, which carried out the test.
A clean separation of three JASSMs was made from the Conventional Rotary Launcher (CRL) in the internal weapons bay of a B-52 at Edwards during the sortie on July 28. Although the aircraft has long been capable of carrying JASSMs on its wing pylons, this is the first time they have been successfully released from the internal bay.
Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, 412th Test Wing commander, who flew the F-16 photo chase plane for the JASSM mission, said: “That was a first-ever for the B-52 and is also going to be another amazing enhancement in B-52 combat capability for Global Strike. I got to chase the first-ever JASSM drop from the internal weapons bay of the B-52. We dropped it right here on the range at Edwards.”
The bomber can carry up to 12 JASSMs on its wing pylons, said Jose Estrada, a weapons integration engineer with the 775th Test Squadron. Recent integration of the CRL in the internal weapons bay adds the capability of carrying eight more missiles on the aircraft, increasing the B-52’s JASSM payload by more than 60%. The legacy launcher used in the B-52 internal bay was the Common Strategic Rotary Launcher. This was only capable of carrying unguided munitions or dumb bombs.
Another advantage to carrying weapons internally is that less drag is created on the aircraft, which increases fuel efficiency, noted Brian Pinto, also a weapons integration engineer with the 775th.
“For long range operations…the aircraft can fly further and faster and still return to base after the mission,” Estrada said.
Although the release of missiles was a milestone, the missiles were not the main focus of the testing, Estrada said. “The CRL is really what we’re looking at. We’ve already validated the JDAM [Joint Directed Attack Munition], now we’re working the JASSM. The next step is the [Miniature Air Launch Decoy].”
Earl Johnson, the test project manager, said this separation test was part of the first of three phases, and primarily focused on data collection. “We accomplished fit checks, making sure the weapons had clearance, within the weapons bay, while rotating on the CRL, demonstrated a clean separation of the weapon in flight and made sure everything was done safely,” he said.
The next phase – the interim phase – will include more of the same testing, but with the addition of live weapons. And the third phase will validate the CLR system’s full capability.