The U.S. Air Force recently released a video of a demonstration of its guided bomb that strikes marine vessels like a torpedo. The demonstration was held on April 28 at the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in the Gulf of Mexico.
Conventionally, torpedos have been used to strike maritime targets. While extremely effective, torpedoes are also quite expensive to deploy and need special naval assets like submarines in the adversarial vicinity to cause intended damage. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has therefore turned to Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) in a bid to deliver low-cost and agile attack solutions.
How does JDAM work?
A JDAM is a guidance kit that converts existing unguided bombs into precision-guided smart 'munitions'. The inertial navigation system (INS) and global positioning system (GPS) in the tail section of the kit help in converting unguided bombs into an all-weather weapon that is compatible with advanced fighter jets.
Target coordinates for the JDAM can be loaded into the aircraft prior to take-off, before weapon release, as well as automatically, from the aircraft's sensors. JDAM also enables a multiple weapon release against a single target or at multiple targets in a single pass, the U.S. Navy's website claims.
Making JDAM work like a torpedo
As part of its QUICKSINK Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), the AFRL modified a GBU-31 JDAM and in collaboration with the Elgin Air Force base, released it from an F-15 E Strike Eagle.
As can be seen in the video above, the JDAM entered the water moments before striking the vessel, and attacked it underwater, much like a torpedo would do. AFRL program manager, Kirk Herzog, said "QUICKSINK is unique in that it can provide new capabilities to existing and future DOD weapons systems, giving combatant commanders and our national leaders new ways to defend against maritime threats."
From the details available in the press release, it is unclear if the AFRL has made further modifications to the JDAM for it be to used in an anti-ship role. As The Drive pointed out, the 'lift-and-break' effect seen in the video would require the AFRL to use a detonation fuze that would delay the explosion till the ship's hull would breach. The AFRL has shared no information on this part.
According to the U.S. Navy's website, the range of a JDAM is 15 miles (24 km), in its current form, the JDAM would be deployable only when a ship's aerial defenses are compromised. So, it might be a while before we see this 'torpedo-like' bomb in action.