May 19, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Two new 'smart weapons' and a new reconnaissance pod recently were certified for use on the F-16. The weapons, developed as result of lessons learned in the 1991 Gulf War, will significantly enhance the aircraft's combat effectiveness.
USAF F-16 carrying two WCMD (Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser) cluster bombs.
The first weapon is the Lockheed Martin-produced Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD
), which features an inertial reference system that corrects for actual wind effects during the bomb's fall. This improved capability permits the weapon to be delivered accurately from high altitude. The cluster weapon comes in three versions, depending on submunition, i. e., CBU
-97 combined effects munitions), CBU-104 (BLU-91/92 mines) and CBU-105 (BLU-108 anti-armor sensor-fused weapons).
The other new smart weapon, the EGBU-27 guided bomb, has an improved 2, 000-pound 'bunker buster' warhead and multisensor guidance. This weapon can be used either as a precision laser-guided bomb, or, if the target coordinates are known, it can use its GPS/INS sensor for guidance as a near-precision, all-weather, 'launch-and-leave' weapon.
In addition to the new smart weapons, a versatile reconnaissance pod has been certified for the F-16. The Theater Airborne Reconnaissance System (TARS
) is built for the U.S. Air Force by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Fairchild Systems, Syosset, N. Y. The pod airframe is produced by Per Udsen/TERMA in Denmark
. The TARS subsystems consists of a forward oblique framing sensor; a medium-altitude, electro-optical sensor; a digital recorder system; a sensor controller unit; and an environmental control system. The pod contains growth provisions to implement a data-link system.
The streamlined pod is carried on the F-16's centerline station where it has the best look angle for the sensor suite. The pod flight certification includes a variety of stores combinations, thus allowing the aircraft to perform multiple roles on the same mission. TARS is being fielded with five Air National Guard F-16 squadrons that operate block 30
F-16C/Ds. The F-16 was the U.S. Air Force's primary flying testbed during development of all three new stores. The F-16 is used by USAF for development of most new fighter weapons because of its low operation and support costs, large existing stores inventory and ease of integrating 'smart weapons' into its fire control system.