Another Arrow in Reaper’s Quiver

The Air Force is working to clear the GBU-38 joint direct attack munition, a 500-pound satellite-guidance-aided bomb, later this year for operational use on the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle. “Putting the JDAM on the Reaper significantly increases its lethality on the battlefield,” said Col. Chris Coombs, commander of the 703rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The GBU-38 scored perfect hits in all nine of its drop tests at the China Lake test range in California, according to the Air Force. Additional analysis is underway, which the Air Force hopes will lead to the certification of the weapon on the Reaper in July. Currently, Reapers carry 500-pound GBU-12 laser-guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire surface-attack missiles in combat. Coombs said the next step after the JDAM is to integrate the GBU-39 small diameter bomb on the Reaper. Last year the Air Force tested the GBU-49 on the Reaper; it is a 500-pound bomb both with laser and GPS-aided guidance. (Wright-Patterson report by Daryl Mayer)