Middle East

How to make a smart bomb

A handout photo taken October 5, 2014 shows two RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft refueling above a city in Iraq. (AFP/Australian Defence)

Australian Super Hornets have conducted a number of missions over Iraq but so far have only dropped two bombs.

Here's how to make a smart bomb.

First you start with the bomb body, in this case a US-supplied Mark 82, a streamlined green-painted steel casing containing around 90kg of high explosive.

"Then we bolt on the front," explains RAAF Squadron Leader R (initial used for reasons of privacy).

"Then you stick on a tail kit which gives it guidance."

The result, hanging beneath the wing of one of the RAAF's Super Hornets standing ready for the next mission over Iraq, is what's called a JDAM.

That, in military parlance, is a Joint Direct Attack Munition, a bomb which will unerringly home onto GPS co-ordinates, programmed by either the pilot or a ground observer.

Next to this bomb is another called a GBU-12, assembled in just the same way as a JDAM, but which homes onto reflected laser light, shone by either a laser on the aircraft or one operated by a ground observer.

Two of these were dropped from a single aircraft in Australia's first actual bombing attack of the campaign against self-proclaimed Islamic State jihadists.

Defence said they were directed at an IS facility.

Defence hasn't said whether they hit the target, although such weapons have a reputation for unerring accuracy.

In the six days since the first combat operation, Australia's six Super Hornets have flown on five days, mostly in two-ship sorties but twice with four.

Not since the Iraq war of 2003 have Australian aircraft conducted actual combat operations.

Then it was the older "classic" F/A-18 Hornets flown by pilots of 75 Squadron. Now it's the Super Hornets operated by 1 Squadron out of Amberley, Queensland.

Super Hornet is termed a generation 4.5 aircraft, far superior to older aircraft such as the classic Hornet and F-16 but not quite up to new generation five aircraft such as the new F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter and the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor.

Group Captain C says the quality of training and equipment really prepared the aircrews, comprising pilot and weapons system operator in the back seat, for this deployment.

"This is really a team effort," he said.

"It impressed us how quickly they have been able to assimilate into the coalition."

These are long missions for the crews who fly two hours up the Persian Gulf to Iraq, spend several hours on patrol then fly another two hours back.

They return home stiff and tired.

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