Taking Laser JDAM to War

The Air Force has successfully employed its newest precision strike weapon in combat during an Aug. 12 mission over Iraq, the service confirmed Wednesday. F-16s with the 77th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Balad used the GBU-54, better known as a Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, in a strike against a moving enemy vehicle in Diyala Province. The GBU-54 is the service’s newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special sensor that combines GPS guidance with the precision of laser targeting to strike moving targets. The Air Force has purchased 400 GBU-54s and is in the process of fully deploying the weapon with the combat fleet, Lt. Col. Dan Spires, head of Air Combat Command’s weapons and tactics shop, told the Daily Report during an Aug. 14 interview. Spires said the weapon gives combat aircraft a capability similar to the EGBU-12 Paveway II laser guided bomb, with a GPS augmentation thrown in. “You can put it on any jet that currently carries a GBU-38 [JDAM],” Spires said. It gives the pilot a great amount of “flex” in a combat situation to be able to switch back and forth between GPS and laser targeting depending on the situation. The service first identified the requirement as an urgent operational need in early 2007 and completed development and testing in less than 17 months, first fielding the weapon aboard an aircraft in May. Spires added that he anticipates the LJDAM program will fill the niche currently addressed by the AGM-65E laser Maverick. He said, “Unless something else happens we won’t need it.” (Includes Balad report by SSgt. Don Branum)