THE ICONIC B-52 STRATOFORTRESS COULD SOON BECOME A “LEAFLET BOMBER”

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A frame from a video shows the PDU-5/B leaflet bomb activating and dispersing the leaflets.

“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” Earl Johnson, B-52 PDU-5/B project manager

The venerable B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers could soon fulfill a new mission becoming an important tool in psychological operations (PSYOPS).

An important part of U.S. military operations overseas in fact is communicating with the local population a goal that can be achieved in a number of ways including something as simple as distributing leaflets.

In PSYOPS, leaflets with messages are often dropped from aircraft in order to reach a wide area.

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According to the article B-52 testers complete leaflet bomb drops written by Kenji Thuloweit, 412th Test Wing Public Affairs, testers from the 419th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) are looking to see if B-52 Stratofortress bombers can accomplish this task.

The unit in fact recently completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area (PIRA) on Edwards Air Force Base (AFB).

“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, 419th FLTS B-52 air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”

Noteworthy the PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit (CBU). The original designation for the weapon was the MK 20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.

According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) before any U.S. Air Force (USAF) munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad, Iraq.

A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron with eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs underneath the left wing. When released from the aircraft, a fuse is set to a certain time to tell the bomb to detonate and release the leaflets.

The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.

“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”

Accoding to Johnson although the testing of the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now, the program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.

A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron flies with eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs connected to an external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam.

Photo credit: Christopher Okula / U.S. Air Force

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