The bomb that the USAF will equip onto its only combat-ready squadron of F-35As is, to no one’s surprise, a Raytheon-made Paveway GBU-49 bomb that can both hone in on targets via laser guidance, and carry the “all-weather capability of GPS guidance,” according to the manufacturer.
The Paveway will slowly be added to the F-35’s weapons suite over the next year as, until now, the Air Force’s F-35As have only been able to hit moving targets with human-directed support, DefenseNews said.
Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, of the F-35-integration office said, “the ability to hit a moving target is a key capability that we need in current close-air support fight.” The general called the GBU-49 a “great solution for the F-35” and, “frankly, for all of our legacy platforms to hit these moving targets.”
The US had previously planned to use cluster bombs to take out moving targets, according to Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan. However, in the length of time that the F-35 program has taken to develop, the laws regarding the use of cluster munitions against mobile targets have changed. “The US, by treaty, is not allowed to use those weapons anymore,” Bogdan said. “So when that weapon left the inventory, we were left without a weapon that could hit moving targets.”
On February 14, Sputnik reported that the Air Force was in pursuit of a 500-pound precision guided bomb for the F-35A. According to a Sources Sought Synopsis the Air Force released at the time, the Air Force was looking to acquire 400 laser- and GPS-guided bombs that could hit targets moving at a velocity of 70 mph, an inventory the service wants to increase to 1,200. The call for sources arrived “in response to an Air Combat Command Quick Reaction Capability requirement,” according to a document filed with the General Services Administration.
The spectacularly-expensive trillion-and-a-half-dollar F-35 joint strike fighter program, which includes all future jet procurement, maintenance, and weaponry supply, is estimated to cost so much that the federal government could erase all of America’s student loan debt, a financial burden that threatens to hold back a generation of students. In addition to not being able to hit moving targets, an ostensibly basic and highly important capability for a “multirole” fighter jet, the F-35A was also grounded in Australia recently, after officials deemed it could not fly through lightning storms, an ironic feature of the F-35 “Lightning II” jet.