Ran in The Weaponeer on 1 April 1999
Often, NWTSCL and other NAWCWD aircrew and engineers are requested to travel to multiple combat theaters around the world and troubleshoot problems being experienced with various weapon systems or assist in accelerated deployment of those systems. Most of these requests involve very little advance notice and response time.
During the last several months, several of these events occurred, but two were of vital importance to our combat operations.
USS Carl Vinson
In response to an urgent fleet request from the USS Carl Vinson battle group in the Persian Gulf, LCdr. Mike Murphy, of NWTSCL, was tasked to assist in accelerating the deployment of baseline Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOW) to be used against Iraqi missile sites. To accomplish this task, Murphy accompanied the weapons to the Persian Gulf where he coordinated refresher training for shipboard ordnancemen; aircrew refresher training and hands-on cockpit procedural review; mission planning review and system software verification; coordination of pilot familiarization flights for 16 aircrew members; software interoperability troubleshooting; and mission planning and technical support for aircrew on initial operational flights.
Murphy's efforts culminated in fleet operators receiving ahead of schedule, a production weapon system that greatly increased their operational lethality, flexibility and survivability. This new capability has already dramatically altered their strike planning, increasing air wing potency, while substantially decreasing external support requirements. Even more significant is the fact that on the morning of Jan. 25, three JSOW baseline weapons were successfully deployed against an Iraqi missile site.
Recently, a message came in from the USS Enterprise that it needed technical assistance with the GBU-24, a laser guided bomb being used against specific targets in the Persian Gulf.
The ship was participating in Operation Desert Fox in response to Iraq's noncompliance with United Nations resolutions. It reported that not all of the GBU-24B/B laser guided bombs that had been deployed reached their targets. After performing a careful review of tactics, loading and employment parameters, the root cause of failures for each of the attacks was unable to be determined, and a request for technical assistance was sent to NAWCWD.
In response, Capt. Mike Dukes, USMC and project officer in the NWTSCL, and other personnel from VX-9 and the China Lake Tactical Weapons Office were assigned to provide a solution.
Their first action was to review the available data and assemble a tiger team to proceed aboard ship to conduct a more detailed investigation of the individual attacks. The team consisted of Dukes, Lt. Jeff Lewis, from VX-9, and Gary Ozunas and Gunars Svika from the Tactical Weapons Office at China Lake.
The goals of this team were to assess the root cause of the weapon system failures; provide recommendations on future employment of GBU-24 to increase the probability of achieving desired target damage; disseminate lessons learned to all USN and USMC aviation units employing GBU-24; and determine if weapon system support improvements were warranted to improve the effectiveness of GBU-24 employed from USN and USMC platforms.
Prior to departing, the team reviewed weapon performance data, FLIR performance data for AN/AAS-38 and LATIRN pods, the Operational Tactics Guide and F/A-18 software manuals for accuracy and content. The team intended to assess the effectiveness of each component once it was put aboard the ship and conduct weapon release simulations to support on-site training of aircrew.
Upon arriving aboard Enterprise, they met with the aircrew, ordnance officers and the ship's ordnance division to review assembly procedures and employment of each weapon. They also had an opportunity to inspect two fully-assembled GBU-24s. After careful consideration of the data available, several recommendations were made in the areas of envelopes, auto release of the weapon and laser energy, which corrected the immediate problems.
The GBU-24 team also recommended additional actions be taken to prevent future employment failures. Among the recommendations were functionality and reliability testing of inventories and additional training of F/A-18 and F-14 aircrew.