Editors Note: 22 years later, on October 10, one month after the attack on the Twin Towers, the News Review reported these developments:
By CASEY WILSON News Review Correspondent– Personnel at China Lake’s Naval Air Warfare Center have a professional interest in Operation Enduring Freedom – America’s opening punch in the war against terrorism.
One weapon American forces are using to pound the Al Qaeda terrorist camps and Taliban military installations in Afghanistan is JDAM or Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
Historically, every weapon ever used by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft has gone through part of its development phase and testing at China Lake. JDAM is one of the newest additions to the arsenal.
Strike planners can expect a 1,000-pound Mk-83 dumb bomb dropped from a moderate altitude to fall somewhere in an area the size of a football field. Only about five percent of those bombs can be counted to make a direct hit on a target.
JDAM is a strap-on modification. That turns an ordinary dumb bomb into a precision weapon and can deliver that same force to a circle less than 40 feet in diameter – and it can do it from 15 miles away. That circle will fit inside any street intersection in Ridgecrest. From 40 feet away, a thousand-pound warhead is not a miss.
JDAM is not limited to the 1,000-pound Mk-83. It can be used on the 2,000-pound JDAMs to Afghani targets from bases inside the U.S. According to one source, the B-2 can carry 16 one-ton JDAMs.
Instead of spreading its payload in the carpet-bombing scheme used by the B-52s in Desert Storm, each JDAM can be programmed for individual targets, one per target.
The first step is for the aircraft to wake the JDAMs and feed its coordinates into the JDAM computer, which then gives the bomb the coordinates of the target. On the way to the target area, the aircraft continuously updates the JDAM with its location.
When the weapon’s computers determine the target is within attack range, the pilot drops the JDAM. The bomb then tunes into the global positioning satellite constellation. Once away from the aircraft, JDAM calculates its position from the target based on the GPS navigation, and the guidance system makes whatever corrections are necessary to deliver the warhead to that 40-foot circle.
Meanwhile, the delivery aircraft is free to prosecute more attacks on other targets.
The Air Force and Navy jointly manage the JDAM program. China Lake has played a vital role in JDAM engineering and testing since the inception of the program. According to a September 1998 article in The Rocketeer, when the Air Force began integrating JDAM onto the B-52, the weapon drops occurred on local ranges. B-52s also flew aerodynamic pressure tests at a 500-foot altitude over the water at Pt—Mugu’s sea ranges.
According to Steve Yamaguchi, JDAM project manager at Edwards Air Force Base in 1998, “We need to exercise the system at sea-level dynamic pressures to make sure everything performs correctly.”
Exercising the system is not the only task for the China Lake weapons engineers. Product improvement is vital. For example, the Direct Attack Munitions Affordable Seeker (DAMASK) is one of several candidates for JDAM improvement. Last November, according to an article in The Weaponeer, two DAMASK tests were performed by F-16 Falcons on China Lake ranges.
In both tests, the accuracy improved JDAM’s expected 40-foot circle to less than 10 feet. One of the test missiles slammed into the target less than 3 feet from the center of the aim point.