US Air Force F-22 Raptors performed the first operational deployment of GBU-39 air/ground weapon dropping Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) during exercise Combat Hammer. The mission was flown by test pilots, as part of the weapons system evaluation program sponsored by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron. The test provided an opportunity for an operational unit to employ them in a realistic tactical training environment. The 3rd Wing F-22s that have the upgraded increment 3.1 software were able to drop the GBU-39 SDB. The GBU-39 SDB is a 250 pound precision-guided glide bomb that is intended to provide aircraft with the ability to carry a higher number of bombs and to employ with greater stand-off. “The successful deployment experience and delivery of air-to-ground weapons is a major milestone for the Hawaiian Raptor operations and maintenance team towards declaration of Initial Operational Capability,” said Lt. Col. Robert Jackson, 19th FS commander.
“The Utah Test and Training Range is the only location in the United States where the F-22s can employ SDBs at speeds and altitudes unique to the Raptor,” said Maj. Wade Bridges, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron. “The employment of the GBU-39s was very successful,” said Bridges. “The ammo and weapons personnel that built and loaded the weapons did so with amazing professionalism and technical expertise. They were evaluated during the entire process and received nothing but praise for their work. The pilots who employed the weapons did an excellent job delivering the weapons in a tactical environment. The entire process from building to employing the weapons was a tremendous success resulting in 100% of the SDBs being released successfully.”
This training event allowed for Total Force Integration across the F-22 fleet. The 302nd Fighter Squadron led a Total Force team from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. Pilots from both the 302nd and the 525th Fighter Squadrons and maintainers from the 3rd Maintenance Group and the 477th Fighter Group filled the deployment roster making it a true total force effort from Alaska.
In addition to the Alaska based effort, pilots from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons and their associated maintainers participated in this Combat Hammer. This was the first time operations and maintenance personnel from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons stationed in Hawaii have deployed.