F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Vultures make impact with first GBU-54 combat drop in Afghanistan

October 1, 2010 (by TSgt. Drew Nystrom) - Being an insurgent in Afghanistan and posing a threat to the progression of the Afghan people recently became a lot more dangerous.

A guided bomb unit-54, GBU-54, rests on the wing of F-16C block 40 #89-2008 from the 510th EFS at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan on October 1st, 2010. The GBU-54 is the Air Force's newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special targeting system that uses a combination of Global Position System and laser guidance to accurately engage and destroy moving targets. [USAF photo by SSgt. Christopher Boitz]

Airmen of the 510th Fighter Squadron, assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, recently employed a guided bomb unit-54 laser joint directed attack munition for the first time in the Afghan area of operations.

The GBU-54 is the Air Force's newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special targeting system that uses a combination of Global Positioning System and laser guidance to accurately engage and destroy moving targets.

According to Capt. Nick Ilchena, a fighter pilot with the "Fightin' Buzzards," the fielding of the new bomb allows Air Force assets to deliver precise effects against both moving and stationary targets when requested by ground force commanders.
Air Force jets were previously using a combination of two different weapons, the captain said.

One was the GBU-38, a standard 500-pound JDAM that used a global positioning system guidance control unit to guide it to the target, and the GBU-12 which is a 500-pound laser guided bomb.

"So what this [the GBU-54] does is combine the benefits of both of those into one weapon," Ilchena said.

Identified as an urgent operational need in early 2007, the Air Force completed the GBU-54's development and testing cycle in less than 17 months, fielding it for the first time in combat in Iraq in 2008, Ilchena, a University of Illinois graduate, said.

Another benefit of the Air Force's newest weapon is that it actually uses a majority of the same parts to build as the previous JDAMs, said the Chicago, Illinois native.

For weapons loaders and maintainers that means the learning curve to become proficient at their building and loading isn't quite as steep.

The same can be said for the pilots who employ them.

"One of the biggest benefits is we [pilots] don't have to learn a whole new weapon. You can use it exactly like the old one or you can use the laser," Ilchena said.

"Since the 'Vultures' first-employed the GBU-54 the bomb has become part of the standard load out for Air Force assets providing close air support," Ilchena said. "It allows the ground commander more flexibility to attack a variety of targets in a variety of environments and situations."


Courtesy of 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office