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Airmen make impact with first GBU-54 combat drop in Afghanistan

Tech Sgt. Darrin Sather performs a supervisory post load on a guided bomb unit-54 loaded on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Sept. 30, 2010, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The GBU-54 is the Air Force's newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special targeting system that uses a combination of Global Position System and laser guidance to accurately engage and destroy moving targets. Sergeant Sather is a weapons expeditor assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Tech Sgt. Darrin Sather performs a supervisory post load on a guided bomb unit-54 loaded on an F-16 Fighting Falcon Sept. 30, 2010, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The GBU-54 is the Air Force's newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special targeting system that uses a combination of Global Position System and laser guidance to accurately engage and destroy moving targets. Sergeant Sather is a weapons expeditor assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

A guided bomb unit-54rests on the wing of a F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 1, 2010, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The GBU-54 is the Air Force's newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special targeting system that uses a combination of Global Position System and laser guidance to accurately engage and destroy moving targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

A guided bomb unit-54rests on the wing of a F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 1, 2010, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The GBU-54 is the Air Force's newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special targeting system that uses a combination of Global Position System and laser guidance to accurately engage and destroy moving targets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 510th Fighter Squadron here employed a guided bomb unit-54 laser joint directed attack munition for the first time in the Afghan area of operations recently.

The GBU-54 is the Air Force's newest 500-pound precision weapon, equipped with a special targeting system that uses a combination of Global Positioning System and laser guidance to accurately engage and destroy moving targets.

"The fielding of the new bomb allows Air Force assets to deliver precise effects against both moving and stationary targets when requested by ground force commanders, said Capt. Nick Ilchena, a fighter pilot with the 510th FS.
Air Force jets were previously using a combination of two different weapons, the captain said.

One was the GBU-38, a standard 500-pound JDAM that used a GPS guidance control unit to guide it to the target and the GBU-12, a 500-pound laser guided bomb.

"So what this (the GBU-54) does is combine the benefits of both of those into one weapon," Captain Ilchena said.

Identified as an urgent operational need in early 2007, the Air Force completed the GBU-54's development and testing cycle in less than 17 months, fielding it for the first time in combat in Iraq in 2008, Captain Ilchena said.

Another benefit of the Air Force's newest weapon is that it actually uses a majority of the same parts to build as the previous JDAMs.

For weapons loaders and maintainers that means the learning curve to become proficient at their building and loading isn't quite as steep.

The same can be said for the pilots who employ them.

"One of the biggest benefits is we (pilots) don't have to learn a whole new weapon. You can use it exactly like the old one or you can use the laser," Captain Ilchena said.

"Since (Airmen from the 510th FS) first-employed the GBU-54, the bomb has become part of the standard load out for Air Force assets providing close air support," Captain Ilchena said. "It allows the ground commander more flexibility to attack a variety of targets in a variety of environments and situations."

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