Air-Launched Weapons

US seeks 400 GBU-49 PGMs as interim moving target munition for F-35

14 March 2018
An F-35A pictured with the Systems Development and Demonstration Weapons Suite the aircraft is designed to carry. The United States is to add the GBU-49 as an interim 500 lb class bomb with a moving target capability. Source: Edwards AFB

The US military is to procure 400 Raytheon GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II precision-guided munitions (PGMs) as it looks to afford the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) with an interim moving target capability.

The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), which is the contracting authority for the F-35 across the US services, issued a request for information (RFI) on 14 March for the procurement of the 500 lb PGMs, as well as the associated logistics support. No details pertaining to delivery timelines or contract values were disclosed.

This RFI follows a ‘sources sought’ notice issued in February 2017 for an interim 500 lbclass weapon with a moving target capability for the F-35, to be fielded while the military continues with its Block 3F (full combat capability) integration efforts of the Raytheon GBU-12 Paveway II PGB.

As noted in the 2016 Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) report on the F-35, the GBU-12 has limited moving target capability. “Block 3i [initial combat capability] does not have an automated targeting function with lead-laser guidance (i.e. automatically computing and positioning the laser spot proportionately in front of the moving target to increase the likelihood of hitting the target) to engage moving targets with the GBU-12, like most legacy aircraft have that currently fly close air support (CAS) missions”, the report noted.

”Instead, F-35 pilots can only use basic rules-of-thumb when attempting to engage moving targets with the GBU-12, resulting in very limited effectiveness. Also, limitations with cockpit controls and displays have caused the pilots to primarily use two-ship ‘buddy lasing’ for GBU-12 employment, which is not always possible during extended CAS engagements when one of the aircraft has to leave to refuel on a tanker.

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