Articles

Air Force wants to 3D-print 'Baby MOABs'

The next "Mother of All Bombs" will probably be smaller, leaner and lighter but will still pack a punch.


It's what scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Lab are working on as part of their next-generation munition concept.

Part of the Advanced Ordnance Technologies program, the bomb could be structured to be lighter by using 3D-printed reconstructed loads within the bomb instead of in the casing — plus distributed blast yields, said Dr. John Corley, the core technical competency lead for ordnance sciences at AFRL.

"We've been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to 10 years," Corley said Thursday during a Defense Department Lab day in the Pentagon courtyard.

Corley and colleagues were showcasing a prototype one-seventh the scale of a bomb the lab is working on (not pictured), along with various fuse technologies.

One of the key enablers to prototyping the bomb is through 3D printing. "Right now, most of your penetrator munitions have two-inch case walls," Corley said, which actually prohibits a larger blast and creates more debris.

Related: Here is the video of MOAB's combat debut

Instead, the lab has begun printing casing prototypes — with steel — that moves the load from the case to within the bomb itself (the vertical loads look very similar to a DNA double helix within the bomb).

Furthermore, the lab is using distributed embedded fusing in the bomb "so not only do we have all these other features we're relocating the fireset for the bomb into the explosive, so you can distribute that around different places [with]in the bomb to improve survivability," Corley said.

In current penetrating munitions, the ways in which the fuse is hardwired to the case is limiting, Corley said. By separating the fuse from the case could make the bomb more flexible of when it hits and how it hits.

The fuse prototypes are also being 3D printed at this time.

The guided bomb unit-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb prototype is shown moments before impact. The detonation created a mushroom cloud that could be seen 20 miles away. | US Air Force photo

The next step for the advanced future bomb will be to incorporate these various "selectable effects," as Corley called them.

"In a selectable effects, on any given day you might want it to be the same weapon to give you a small blast footprint, or a large blast footprint, and right now we can control this …height of burst," he said.

The burst height controls the range of damage. The succeeding shockwave — just like the 21,600-pound, GPS-guided GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, uses to penetrate its target — could very well be controlled to be smaller or larger depending on which selectable effect is used.

Thus, how much or how little yield the bomb exerts could be determined for whatever the mission may be — so for once, size (of the actual bomb) doesn't matter.

Looking past MOAB-style bombs, Corley also noted the military aircraft of today are becoming smaller, so weapons too need to adapt — and, of course, fit.

"Workhorse munitions for us are 500 pound and 2,000 pound munitions, but we'd like to get to a 100 pound munition for instance that has the same output as a 500 pound bomb," he said.

Corley said whether the Air Force will make the bombs in-house — much like the MOAB — is still to be determined. Tail kits on bombs, for example, are more likely to be constructed by defense industry companies than the bombs themselves, which "the government owns," he said.

Physical bombs being worked on through the AOT program are still a "few years off" because most are still in the concept stage, Corley said.

 

Humor

These old Navy training videos on how to flirt are hilariously bad

The National Archives hosts countless educational films that have come from the military throughout the ages. If you want to learn about declassified nuclear testing, they've got it. If you want to learn how to properly resist communist propaganda, they've got that, too. If you want to learn the 1960's way of wooing women, you better believe the U.S. Military has wasted money on making those videos, too.

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Podcast

Combat poetry reveals what life is like on the Afghan front lines

Justin Eggen had some things stuck in his head for a long time during — but especially after — his two deployments to Afghanistan. These thoughts became poems and short stories that reflected his feelings and personal experience as a Marine in Marjah and in Afghanistan's Sangin Valley. They are Eggen's way of handling the overwhelming series of emotions from and memories of his time there.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

7 things grunts think about on watch in fighting holes

If nothing else has made you question your choice to join the infantry before, digging a fighting hole definitely will. It's always miserable, it's extremely time consuming, and there's always a giant rock waiting for you once you're halfway down. But, once you get that hole dug, it's smooth sailing. Now, all you have to do is deal with the sleep deprivation and crummy weather.

Keep reading... Show less
History

That time US troops found 200 tons of stolen Nazi gold

In the closing months of World War II, the defeated Nazi Army scrambled to hide the hundreds of tons of gold they had despicably stripped from various nations during their occupation. As they hurriedly stashed their ill-gotten gains, they were unaware that the Allies were drawing near.

Keep reading... Show less
Lists

10 military spouses you should unfriend on Facebook immediately

Often, there comes a point when people decide to give their Facebook friends list an overhaul.

They completely change their social landscape online by avoiding accepting friend requests from certain types of people, and they give their current friends list a good, hard scrub.

Everyone has their reasons. Maybe they're doing it for security purposes, or because a handful of people's posts drive them crazy or they want to keep a more professional profile. Military spouses in particular might do so because they want to focus on positive, stress-free relationships – that is, the ones that bring wine, wear sweat pants, and check judgment at the door.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

This JASSM variant could replace the Harpoon

For a long time, the AGM-84/RGM-84 Harpoon missile has been the primary anti-ship weapon of the United States military. Over the years, with improvements, it's successfully held the line. But, as is perpetually the case, time and technological advances have forced the U.S. Military to look for a missile with even more reach and punch.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

7 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to watch before 'Infinity War'

Not planning a two-day Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon right before seeing "Avengers: Infinity War?"

Nobody has time for that.

To accommodate fans who want to freshen up their knowledge, we collected a list of the most essential MCU movies to watch right before you see "Infinity War," which is scheduled for release April 27, 2018.

Keep reading... Show less