Air-Launched Weapons

USAF awards next-gen area-attack weapon contracts

02 October 2019

A B-1B bomber dropping cluster munitions during tests. The USAF is replacing this class of weapon, which spreads live bomblets across a large area, with a family of next-generation bombs that use fragmentation to achieve the same effect. Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) has contracted two manufacturers to deliver 15,000 warhead cases for the BLU-136/B next-generation area-attack weapon.

The contracts, announced by the Department of Defense (DoD) on 1 October, are for USD600 million each and include delivery of the cases by Faxon Machining and Major Tool & Machine by 30 September 2026.

The USAF issued its initial request for information (RFI) for the development of the BLU-136/B in February 2018. The BLU-136/B is one of a family of Next-Generation Area-Attack Weapons (NGAAWs) being designed to meet the DoD's policy on cluster munitions.

As noted by the USAF, the family comprises the BLU-134/B and BLU-136/B warheads with a height of burst sensor. The BLU-134/B Improved Lethality Warhead (ILW), also known as NGAAW Increment I, is a 500 lb warhead for improved anti-personnel and anti-material (APAM) capabilities. The BLU-136/B, also known as NGAAW Increment II, is a 2,000 lb high-fragmentation area-attack warhead to augment the BLU-134/B for significant improvement against APAM targets.

While cluster munitions spread live bomblets across a wide field, the NGAAW-series weapons achieve a similar effect by showering metal fragments across a wide area to destroy large formations of enemy forces in the open.

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