Duke Field Airmen drop last 15,000-pound bomb

  • Published
  • By Capt. Patrick Nichols
  • 919th Operations Group
Duke Field Airmen from the 711th Special Operations Squadron dropped the last operational Bomb Live Unit-82 from an MC-130E Combat Talon I July 15 at the Utah Test and Training Range.

Nicknamed "Commando Vault" in Vietnam and "Daisy Cutter" in Afghanistan, the BLU-82 is a 15,000-pound bomb, and because of its size, the bomb was dropped by parachute from the aircraft.

"We in the Air Force Reserve Command feel fortunate to have been chosen to drop the last operational Daisy Cutter," said Col. Jon Weeks, the 919th Special Operations Wing vice commander and mission commander on the drop. "Our people in the 711th Special Operations Squadron dropped several BLU-82s during the first few months of Operation Enduring Freedom with significant psychological and tactical effect."

When originally designed, the BLU-82 was the largest conventional bomb in existence. It could instantly clear jungles for helicopter landing zones in Vietnam.

Later, the military used the bomb as an antipersonnel weapon because of its large lethal radius combined with the psychological effects of the flash and sound. The warhead contains 12,600 pounds of GSX slurry (ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder and polystyrene). A 38-inch fuse extender detonates the bomb, allowing maximum destruction at ground level without leaving a crater.

"The power of this weapon is overwhelming," Colonel Weeks said. "Even flying the chase plane at 6,000 feet above ground level and approximately three-quarters of a mile away from the bomb's detonation point, we felt a shock wave that shook the aircraft. As former commander of the 711th SOS and a traditional reservist, I feel especially proud to have been part of this historical event."

The crew determines the accurate delivery of the weapon. The navigator positions the aircraft and calculates ballistic and wind computations. The pilot keeps the plane on course with precision instrument flying.

"As far as aircraft loads go, the delivery of the BLU-82 was nothing unusual," said Lt. Col. Mike Theriot, the aircraft commander and pilot on the mission. "Our aircraft routinely drop loads much larger and heavier."

Wing officials said they believe there are no plans, at this time, to produce BLU-82s in the future. The only remaining inactive bombs are used for loadmaster training and for static displays in museums. 

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