The US Air Force has successfully tested its new 5,000-pound (2,267 kilograms) GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator capable of destroying underground spaces such as ballistic missile and nuclear weapons facilities.
According to the service, the bunker-busting bomb was dropped at 35,000 feet (10.6 kilometers) using an F-15E strike fighter around the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The event marked the first time that the air force loaded and released a 2.5-ton bomb in the open air.
The GBU-72 drop test successfully demonstrated how the weapon can be safely released from the aircraft, which had been upgraded to carry bombs that weigh 5,000 pounds instead of its original payload capacity of 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms).
“Test series of this magnitude are never successful, overall, because of just a single person or organization,” 780th TS Programming Engineer Ronald Forch said in a press release. “They are ultimately successful because the test engineer is able to perform a role very similar to that of a symphony conductor guiding the performance of a series of consecutive miracles.”
The service has reportedly been researching the mammoth GBU-72 bomb since 2017. It is expected to purchase 125 units of the weapon by next year at a total cost of $36 million.
About the GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator
Developed by Applied Research Associates, Inc., the GBU-72 was designed using advanced modeling and simulation techniques and processes to increase its lethality.
It can also be combined with a modified Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS guidance kit and tail assembly, which converts the bomb into GPS-guided munitions to hit particular coordinates.
According to GBU-72 Program Manager James Culliton, it is an advantage that the techniques used in developing the bomb can help produce prototypes that represent what the actual hardware and software would be when the weapon is mass produced.
“This helps us bring our operational test partners in sooner with eyes on, hands on participation, validating our design and procedures sooner while including input that improves the weapon,” he remarked.