Video: U.S. Air Force Develops a Precision-Guided Anti-Ship Bomb

Image courtesy AFRL

Published May 2, 2022 7:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has developed and demonstrated an effective anti-ship weapon capable of breaking the keel of a small vessel in a single hit. It is an inexpensive and familiar technology: a bomb, upgraded with a precision guidance system. 

AFRL started out with a GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), the Air Force's standard all-weather guided-bomb tail kit. In its normal configuration, JDAM uses GPS and inertial navigation to maneuver a standard bomb with enough precision to land within about eight feet of the target. A laser guidance kit is also available. 

AFRL's team took this proven "smart bomb" kit and modified it for naval applications. The new version - dubbed "Quicksink" - uses modular sensors to adapt JDAM's precision guidance capabilities for use against moving maritime targets (ships). In a test, the lab attached a Quicksink guidance kit to a 2,000-pound bomb, loaded it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle, and dropped it onto a (decommissioned) merchant ship. The vessel broke in half; the stern and accommodations section slipped below in about 20 seconds, followed by the bow 17 seconds later (below). 

“QUICKSINK is unique in that it can provide new capabilities to existing and future DOD weapons systems, giving combatant commanders and our national leaders new ways to defend against maritime threats,” said Kirk Herzog, AFRL program manager.

The lab's objective is to field an inexpensive air-launched weapon that can deliver the same devastating effect as a heavyweight torpedo, the go-to option for sinking large ships. As JDAM is a standard munition that can be carried by most Air Force and Navy strike aircraft, and 2,000-pound bombs are plentiful in the U.S. inventory, the new upgrade could provide a low-cost and easy-to-field weapon for surface warfare - with bolt-on compatibility. 

JDAM is also the basis for the Quickstrike-J naval mine, a precision air-dropped mine that can be released from high altitude. A gliding variant of Quickstrike-J can be installed from a standoff distance of up to 40 nm.