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USAF B-52 tests life saving leaflet bombs

U.S. Air Force Strategic B-52 Stratofortress bomber has completed drop trials of life saving leaflet bombs, newest addition to its wide range of lethal weapons including gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles an…


U.S. Air Force Strategic B-52 Stratofortress bomber has completed drop trials of life saving leaflet bombs, newest addition to its wide range of lethal weapons including gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions.

Leaflet bombs are air dropped to communicate with the local population during military operations, which contain a message and can reach a wider area within a short period.

The 419th Flight Test Squadron based at Edwards Air Force base in California tested the long range heavy bomber for this task.

The squadron completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards.

“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, 419th FLTS B-52 air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Okula

The PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit. The original designation for the weapon was the MK 20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.

According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad, Iraq.

The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.

“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”

Johnson said testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now.  The program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.