Losses and Aviation Safety

USAF F-16 Dropped BDU-50 Inert Bomb on Private Land in Japan

The BDU-50 inert bomb is reported to have landed 5km away from its target.

On Nov. 6, 2019 at around 6:30 p.m. a U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-16 assigned to the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base (AB), Japan had dropped a 500lb BDU-50 inert bomb on a private land near Misawa AB.

The BDU-50 is reported to have landed 5km away from its target.

It did not contain explosives, and no damage was reported.

“Such an incident is a huge concern for surrounding residents and should never happen,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a Nov. 7 news conference. “We urge the U.S. military to provide more information and effective measures to prevent a recurrence.”

According to The Asahi Shimbun, the U.S. military around 8:50 a.m. on Nov. 7 informed Japan’s Tohoku Defense Bureau that the F-16 dropped a mock bomb on a range near the base, which straddles the city of Misawa and the village of Rokkasho in the prefecture.

The U.S military later found the mock bomb buried in grass on a private farm about 5 kilometers west of the range. U.S. forces also told the ministry that they will refrain from mock-bomb drop training for the time being.

The BDU-50 bombs have a spotting charge that releases a cloud of smoke on impact. The Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound and the BDU-56 [the inert version of the MK-84 2,000-pound bomb] are also used on some targets. These inert “heavyweight” bombs are dropped either with a parachute for “High Drag”, or “Slick”, which has no drag device. In either case, their weight creates enough “splash” or dirt spray, to be easily spotted without using an explosive charge. A new technique for the demilitarization and recycling of BDU-50 inert practice bombs involves using a contractor owned and operated plasma saw, eliminating the need for explosive venting.

A U.S. mock bomb is believed to have created this hole in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, on Nov. 7. (Taiji Ito)
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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