The Royal Australian Air Force’s 81 Wing based at RAAF Williamtown has accepted the first BLU-111(AUS)B/B bomb units to be manufactured in Australia by Australian Munitions, a business unit of Thales Australia.
The BLU-111(AUS)B/B is a 500lb high-explosive weapons which will replace the Mk82 bomb body in RAAF service. When fitted with Paveway II laser guidance units the weapon is known as the GBU-12, and when equipped with the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS guidance unit, fins, and strakes, the weapon becomes the GBU-38.
The delivery of the Australian-produced BLU-111 follows the delivery of similar BLU-126(AUS)/B bomb bodies which feature a smaller explosive charge designed to reduce fragmentation and thus, collateral damage.
“The development and production of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B has been an ongoing collaboration between the United States Government, Defence, and Australian industry, specifically the manufacturer, Australian Munitions,” AIR6000 Weapons Project Engineering Manager, SQNLDR Ryan Kell said in a release. “The design is based on the US manufactured BLU-111B/B, but has been tailored to meet Australian production methods while providing improved safety characteristics.
“Aircraft bomb warheads have been produced in Australia for a number of decades,” he added. “But the BLU-111(AUS)B/B warhead represents a generational change in explosives manufacture and safety technologies through use of a polymer-bonded explosive fill and design features which reduce the likelihood of the warhead detonating in the event of a safety incident.”
The ability to manufacture the bomb bodies locally is in line with the Commonwealth Government’s goals of establishing a sovereign guided weapons enterprise in Australia in order to bolster technical capabilities and ensure supply in times of conflict.
“Having 500lb bombs produced in Australia increases our self-reliance and resilience of our air-combat platforms and the warfighting capability they provide,” Air Force Director Combat Capability GPCAPT Guy Adams said. “As a future line of effort, the ability to act as a second line of supply to allied nations could see Australia providing warheads for use by allies during operations or training, which would greatly enhance international relationships and interoperability.”
The BLU-111(AUS)B/B is able to be employed by the RAAF’s F-35A Lightning II, F/A-18F Super Hornet, and Hawk 127 lead-in fighters, and will be integrated with the MQ-9B SkyGuardian when it enters service from 2025.