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US Marine Corps modifies weapons loader adapter for F-35B

21 March 2019
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A GBU 49 is loaded onto an F-35B on the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS (LHD 2) on 12 December 2018. The USN modified an adapter, the white collar being removed by USMC Corporal Randle Lane (left), to load GBU-49 on the F-35B because the weapon’s conduit did not fit the current weapons loader. Source: US Navy

The US Marine Corps (USMC) modified support equipment to allow the guided bomb unit (GBU)-49 munition to be used on the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant.

When the USMC chose GBU-49 for the F-35B, it needed a piece of support equipment to load the weapon onto the aircraft. However, the conduit on the weapon did not fit the current weapons loader until a team from Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst, New Jersey, modified the adapter, the ADU-894A/E, and delivered it on schedule to the USMC in November, according to a US Navy (USN) statement.

The NAWCAD Lakehurst Airborne Weapons Support Equipment (AWSE) branch was tasked to develop an adapter that could not only provide loading capability for the GBU-49, but for all MK-82 smart bombs to be loaded on the F-35B. The goal was to develop, test, build, and deliver the adapters within nine months.

John Peterson, project lead, said on 20 March that GBU-49 is part of the Enhanced Paveway II family of smart bombs. A wiring conduit is mounted externally on the body, enabling the weapon's nose seeker to communicate with the tail guidance system when in flight.

Peterson said GBU-49 did not fit in the current weapons loader because existing weapons loading equipment was designed for compatibility with earlier Paveway series weapons used by the USN and USMC. The GBU-49 conduit shape and location was different from legacy GBU weapons.

The AWSE engineering team set out to modify a current adapter to connect the GBU-49 with the single hoist ordnance loading system (SHOLS), the primary munition loading system of the aircraft weapons station afloat. The team designed a modified adapter in their lab and worked with NAWCAD Lakehurst's prototyping and manufacturing division (PMD) to build a prototype.

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