US Air Force Tests New Ship-Killing Smart Bomb

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has demonstrated a new low-cost, ship-killing smart bomb in the Gulf of Mexico.

A modified 2,000-pound GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) was launched from an F-15E Strike Eagle, destroying a full-scale surface vessel.

Funded by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the recent trial was part of the QUICKSINK Joint Capability Technology Demonstration initiated by the AFRL.

The test was carried out with the cooperation of the 780th Test Squadron (96th Test Wing) and the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron (53rd Wing).

“The QUICKSINK mission was successful thanks to the hours of planning and preparation provided by the entire test team,” Capt. J. Tucker Tipton said.

“This was another example of how the 780th Test Squadron supports weapons developmental test customers and helps deliver unique capabilities to the warfighter.”

Additional details were not provided regarding the type of ship sunk by the weapon.


QUICKSINK is a US Air Force program to provide more options for neutralizing surface maritime threats by leveraging the “inherent flexibility” of the joint force.

It aims to rapidly field a capability that can be used against stationary or moving maritime targets at minimal cost.

As part of the program, the AFRL relies on the possibilities offered by a weapon open systems architecture (WOSA) seeker to enable precise weapon placement, thereby reducing system costs and enhancing overall performance.

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

AFRL munitions directorate official Col. Tony Meeks said that the program answers the urgent need to defeat many maritime threats. It also helps the US Air Force “solve our nation’s greatest challenges.”

An F-15E Strike Eagle was used to launch a modified JDAM and hit a surface vessel. Photo: US Air Force

Additional Advantages

Maj. Andrew Swanson of the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron stated that the heavyweight torpedoes have proven their ability to sink large ships.

However, such a weapon system is reportedly expensive and can be employed only by a small portion of naval assets.

“With QUICKSINK, we have demonstrated a low-cost and more agile solution that has the potential to be employed by the majority of Air Force combat aircraft, providing combatant commanders and warfighters with more options,” Swanson stressed.

Herzog added that the program seeks to develop a cheaper means of executing torpedo-like kills from the air more rapidly and over a much larger area.

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