The US Air Force tested a B-52H Stratofortress bomber equipped with inert QuickStrike Extended Range (QS-ER) mines off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
The QS-ER concept marries an Mk64 underwater mine to the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) Extended Range variant to strike a target precisely from a stand-off range of over 40 miles (64 kilometers).
The JDAM kit comprises a GPS-assisted inertial navigation guidance system that aids a munition in gliding toward the designated target.
Allows Mine Launches in Contested Waterways
The concept allows an aircraft to deliver multiple 2,000-pound (907 kilograms) guided air-launched mines simultaneously in a contested waterway with lower risk.
In comparison, an unguided mine requires launching at multiple intervals, with the aircraft flying at dangerously low altitudes.
“What’s unique about QS-ER is its range and precision,” 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron commander Lt. Col. Matt Spinelli said.
“We can now release in a Launch Acceptability Region at various speeds and altitudes and have the weapon land with incredible accuracy. This reduces the number of weapons needed to affect the minefield and makes the delivery platform more survivable.”
IOC Intended in 2024
The March demonstration was the weapon’s fourth test since its inception in 2015. It aligns with US Indo-Pacific Command efforts to enhance maritime capabilities to meet the strategic competition.
“The QS-ER program is pursuing flight certification for a 12-store carriage from the B-52H to meet Initial Operational Capability in [financial year] 24,” the air force stated.