Okay, so you’ve seen gun-camera footage and maybe you’ve seen the combat debut of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb, but long before weapons are used on the bad guys, the United States Armed Forces give them a few test runs.
Dropping a bomb from an airplane is a lot more complicated than you might think — it’s even led to some close calls that were caught on tape. Having your own bomb hit you while you fly over the bad guys isn’t exactly the desired outcome of your sortie, now is it?
So, to make sure everything goes according to plan, the military does a few test drops over friendly territory before taking it into the field. They want a good idea of how it drops and, importantly, if JDAM or Paveway guidance kits will work. These test drops are typically done in sparsely populated areas — think the vast deserts of Nevada or California.
It’s why the Air Force has the 412th Test Wing that operates out of Edwards Air Force Base (best known as the place where the Space Shuttle would land). The Navy has VX-9, also known as “the Vampires,” at Naval Air Station China Lake. For the Marines, it’s VMX-1 in Yuma, Arizona. These squadrons are there to help work out the kinks and make sure that all aircraft and eligible ordnance work well together.
Tests like these have been done since World War II. For a little taste of vintage weapon tests, watch the video below and see some classic planes, like the North American F-86 Sabre, the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, and the North American F-100 Super Sabre test drop various bombs, including napalm.
(Jeff Quitney | YouTube)