Bombing a boat

The US Air Force has released a series of spectacular photographs of a speedboat target being struck by a GBU-10 Paveway II 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bomb was inert, of course – this was a test of its guidance capabilities against a small, fast-moving maritime target, rather than its explosive force. reports:

Since its introduction to the Air Force in 1986, the B-1B Lancer has been the backbone of the bomber fleet because of its speed, payload and continuously upgraded capabilities.

On Sept. 4, a single B-1 from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron took off from Dyess Air Force Base, with the Gulf of Mexico as its destination.

The solo B-1, alongside other bomber and fighter aircraft, participated in a maritime tactics development and evaluation, or TD&E, with the goal of improving and better understanding the aircraft’s capabilities.

During the evaluations, the B-1 dropped a total of six munitions to include a laser guided 500-pound bomb GBU-54, as well as 500 and 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.

“Many of the dynamic targeting skills we’ve refined over the past decade on land are directly applicable in the maritime environment,” said Capt. Alicia Datzman, 337th Tactics and Evaluation Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. “This is the perfect opportunity to validate and refine these tactics.”

“This evaluation solidifies what our crew members have already known, ‘We can strike surface targets,'” said Lt. Col. Alejandro Gomez, 337th TES special projects officer. “The knowledge we gain from these events gives combatant commanders assurance that we can be called upon to complete the mission.”

The B-1’s role in the tactics development and evaluation was to detect, target and engage small boats using currently fielded and available weapons, released in all weather conditions.

Gomez said that B-1s are also prime aircraft, capable of protecting important assets at sea and patrolling allied shipping lanes, because of its speed and ability to stay in the air longer than most aircraft.

There’s more at the link.

I’ve already seen several negative comments by various folks complaining that a 2,000-pound bomb is the last thing you want to drop on a small, fast target, being too big, too expensive, and wasteful of a large, complex aircraft that could be better used for other purposes.  I think such comments are missing the point.  This was designated as an evaluation exercise, to see what can be done if necessary.  It wasn’t implementing a defined operational doctrine.  I’m here to tell you, in war, there are times when you use whatever you can get your hands on to do whatever job needs doing.  If that means ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’, it’s the nut’s hard luck.  Sometimes you can’t wait for the most appropriate tool for the job to arrive on the scene.

In that scenario, it’s good to know that the B-1 can be used to interdict small, fast maritime targets like this.  It probably wouldn’t use a 2,000-pound bomb on such a target if smaller weapons were available, but it’s nice to know that in an emergency, it can do so.  Furthermore, the B-1 can carry up to 80 500-pound bombs.  If it carries that many GBU-12 guided bombs, think of the carnage just one such aircraft could wreak among a swarm of (say) Iranian Revolutionary Guard motor-boats trying to block the Straits of Hormuz.  All I can say is, I wouldn’t like to be aboard one of them . . .



  1. The real cost is in the guidance package, not the steel tube full of explosives. And with a 2000 lb BDB you still generate a kill when you miss.

  2. Yes, the guidance package is expensive but what is the cost of an aircraft carrier that the swarm of suicide speedboats will be targeting? Not to mention that it takes years to build a carrier. Since the Super Hornets carry the same bombs I wouldn't be surprised if this technique will be practiced by the USN squadrons.

    We've come along way from the glider bombs the Luftwaffe pioneered in WWII.


  3. The problem I see with using this against a swarm attack is simply the difficulty of using the laser designators against that many targets simultaneously. This doesn't sound like a 'drop-and-forget' weapon, so a large portion of the swarm may well be able to attack while we're waiting for the dropped bombs to hit the boats being targeted.

    Still, it's a neat capability and should be useful in a lot of circumstances.

  4. The best and least expensive way to destroy a gaggle of small relatively fast moving targets (speed-boats) is a multi-plane, low-level run, dropping a variety of CBU's (cluster-bomb units), followed on by numerous Mark-77's (napalm).

    Unfortunately the Liberal's have taken those ideal weapons off the table because of their "inhumane methods".

    Hell, methods for killing bad-guys should have no restrictions.

  5. As far as the use of the 'large, complex aircraft', a Bone has the speed and endurance to cover a relatively large area. Especially somewhere where there are no nearby friendly bases for rapid response.

    Plus you have one aircraft that can carry dozens of individual bombs, more than the lighter fighter/bombers. In addition, if it can target a small craft, it can target larger craft the same way

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