MQ-9 REAPER DROPS ITS FIRST GBU-38 JDAM

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For the past 10 years MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters

An MQ-9 Reaper recently dropped a GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) at a range, adding another weapon to the drone’s arsenal.

“We had a great opportunity to drop the first live GBU-38s in training,” said Capt. Scott, 26th Weapons Squadron weapons instructor pilot (IP) in a U.S. Air Force (USAF) press release. “The GBU-38 is a weapon we’ve been trying to get on the MQ-9 for several years now and we had the opportunity to be the first to drop during training.”

Noteworthy, for the past 10 years MQ-9 aircrew have been employing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, but the JDAM brings new global positioning system capabilities to the warfighters.

Moreover the GBU-38 will allow the MQ-9 to pursue targets in bad weather.

“The GBU-38, just like the Hellfire and GBU-12, is a very accurate weapon and the fact that it’s GPS-guided gives us another versatile way to guide the weapon, specifically, through inclement weather onto targets,” Scott said.

However not only does the GBU-38 perform through poor weather conditions: actually the new weapon also helps the munitions Airmen and the weapons load crew members who load them.

“The GBU-38 has a 20 minute load time compared to the GBU-12, which has a 30 minute load time,” said Senior Airman Curtis, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member. “The GBU-38 is a quicker load compared to the GBU-12 and gets the plane in the air quicker.”

Furthermore the JDAM will add flexibility and efficiency to the targeting process. Nevertheless aircrews will continue to employ the AGM-114 Hellfires and GBU-12s downrange in addition to the GBU-38 that is now ready for combat.

“The overall impact of the GBU-38 is aircrew will have more versatility for the commanders to provide different effects and make a difference for the guys on the ground,” Scott said. “It has a different guidance system and it opens the bridge to more GPS-guided weapons in the future.”

GBU-38 JDAM bombs

Photo credit: Senior Airman Christian Clausen / U.S. Air Force and Master Sgt. Andrew J. Moseley / U.S. Air National Guard