GBU-15 and AGM-130 Television Guided Weaponry

F-15E releases a GBU-15

F-15E Strike Eagle releases a GBU-15

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GBU-15  |  Specs  |  Video

AGM-130  |  Specs  |  Video


GBU-15 glide bomb
GBU-15 glide bomb

Development began in 1974 on a standoff guided weapon to supersede the HOBOS, the Air Force's existing TV guided bomb. The GBU-15 was first flown in 1975 and in 1983 the EO (TV) guided version entered service. Two years later the imaging infrared (IIR) version saw deployment. The Electro-Optic and IIR seeker heads could be fitted to a Mk 84 bomb or BLU-109 penetrator as needed.

During Operation Desert Storm 71 GBU-15s were used, all dropped by F-111F aircraft. The most notable mission occurred on 27 January when five F-111F aircraft attacked the oil terminal at Al Ahmadi with GBU-15(V)-2/Bs (a Mk 84 warhead with IIR guidance and long-chord wings.) The exact targets were manifold structures ashore feeding the pipeline to Sea Island where 1.2 million barrels of oil was pouring into the sea every day due to sabotage by Iraqi troops. The mission was a success as it massively curtailed the flow of oil.

The first time a GBU-15 was dropped in anger from a F-15E happened on Sept 9, 1995 during Operation Deliberate Force. A total of nine GBU-15 glide bombs (all of the IIR variety) were used against air defense targets and Bosnian-Serb ground forces around Banja Luca. Five of the GBU-15s were BLU-109 based and four were based on the Mk 84 bomb. The weapon also saw use during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (Operation Allied Force) in 1999. GBU-15s were quite effective at destroying dangerous targets such as key AAA and SAM sites in these campaigns.

The GBU-15 can be used in one of two modes, direct or indirect. Direct mode is where the GBU-15 is locked onto a target before launch. Once released the weapon guides itself to the target without further input from the launch aircraft or crew. The indirect mode allows the GBU-15 to be used to its full potential with true man-in-the-loop control and requires a AXQ-14 datalink pod (DLP) or ZSW-1 Improved DL Pod (IDLP). Either pod allows the weapon to be guided after launch. Steering cues and range indications are shown in the HUD and on the GBU-15 video Multi-Purpose Display (MPD). In Indirect mode its seeker can be slewed via the datalink to acquire the target as the bomb flys within visual range. Once the GBU-15 is committed to striking the target the weapon's control fins move to bring its line-of-fall in line with the seeker's line-of-sight.

2001 saw the Enhanced version EGBU-15 achieve Initial Operational Capability, incorporating a global positing system (GPS) and a strapdown inertial package guaranteeing accuracy in all weather and even if the datalink connection is lost. This is not a new weapon but a major upgrade to the existing GBU-15 under a 1999 contract with Raytheon Systems Co. The EGBU-15 was successfully employed in combat in 2001, directly supporting Operation Enduring Freedom combat operations, according to a USAF factsheet. A rocket powered version of the GBU-15, the AGM-130 was also developed and produced.

Click on the Video below to see the GBU-15 in action.

"F-111 & EF-111 Units in Combat" by Peter E. Davies, Osprey publishing (ePub edition), 2014
"F-15E Strike Eagle Units in Combat 1990–2005" Steve Davies, Osprey publishing, 2005
"Deliberate Force - A Case Study in Effective Air Campaigning" Col Robert C. Owen editor, Air University Press, Jan. 2000

Click here to see specification tables.

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Inert AGM-130 heading toward target
Inert AGM-130 heading toward target

Work began on the AGM-130 in 1984 as an improvement of the GBU-15 guided glide bomb. Ten years later, it entered service. The AGM-130 is based on a modified GBU-15 Mk 84 bomb (AGM-130A) or BLU-109 penetrator (AGM-130C) with an added solid rocket motor. The rocket ignites some 30 seconds after missile launch and is designed to maintain the weapon at a certain minimum velocity rather than accelerate it to a high speed. This more than doubles the AGM-130's range over a standard GBU-15 (the rocket falls away automatically when its spent.)

An onboard radar altimeter can be set to keep the AGM-130 flying as low as 200 ft (61 m) or up to 2,000 ft (610 m) during transit to the target area. Weapon guidance is provided by the WGU-40/B TV Guidance Section (TVGS) or the WGU-42/B Improved Modular Infra Red Sensor (IMIRS). Some variants also have a Switchable Data Link (SDL) - an antenna inside the weapon to increase the data coverage area.

The AGM-130B was a planned airfield attack variant with a SUU-54 dispenser warhead containing 15 BLU-106/B Boosted Kinetic Energy Penetrator and 75 British designed Hunting Engineering HB876 area-denial submunitions. The primary weapon, the BLU-106/B, has its descent slowed by a parachute. As soon as the nose of the weapon reaches 60 - 65 degrees below the horizontal, the retarding parachute is discarded and a solid fuel rocket slams the BLU-106/B down into the concrete, cratering the runway to a great extent. Each HB876 minelet weighs 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) and falls by parachute. Kept in the correct orientation by a ring of curved metal legs once on the ground, the HB876 self-destructed after a variable pre-set interval. Meanwhile the weapon awaited close-by disturbances which would cause it to detonate early, thereby denying soldiers access to the area. Besides the anti-personal effects, the minelet also fired an explosively formed projectile capable of cutting through heavy bulldozer blades, frustrating attempts at mine clearing. The overall weight of the AGM-130B came to 2,560 lbs (1160 kg). This was not procured by the military.

During Operation Northern Watch in 1999 (Iraq) the AGM-130 was first used in combat, apparently with less than successful results. It also was used in Operation Allied Force. On April 12, 1999, in a tragic event, a bridge near Grdelica in southern Serbia targeted by a AGM-130 was struck just as a passenger train crossed. This accident resulted in a large number of civilian casualties.

Boeing tested a turbojet engine to extend the range of the AGM-130 on Sept. 21, 1998. The turbojet reached 100 percent thrust starting at six seconds from the release point and traveled approximately 102 nautical miles (189 km), with a flight time of more than 11 minutes. It doesn't seem this was pursued as a feature of the AGM-130.

Watch the video below to see the AGM-130 in action:

"F-15E Strike Eagle Units in Combat 1990–2005" Steve Davies, Osprey publishing, 2005
Boeing Historical Snapshot:

Click here to see specification tables.

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TypeGuided glide bombGuided rocket boosted bomb
ContractorBoeing 1Boeing
Cost$242,500 2/ $245,000 3~$450,000
IOC1983 4/1985 5 (2001) 61994
In Combat1991?1999
PropulsionNonestrap-on Hercules solid fuel rocket
FuseFMU-124A/B or FMU-143FMU-124A/B or FMU-143
WarheadMk 84 or BLU-109Mk 84 or BLU-109
Explosive945 lb (428.6 kg) Tritonal [Mk 84]
535 lb (242.7 kg) Tritonal [BLU-109]
Warhead Weight1,970 lb (894 kg) 71,970 lb (894 kg) 7
Total Weight2,515 lb (1140 kg)2,917 lb (1323 kg)
Wing Span59 in (1.5 m)59 in (1.5 m)
Length12 ft, 11 in (3.94 m)12 ft, 10.5 in (3.92 m)
Diameter18 in (0.46 m)18 in (0.46 m)
Ceiling30,000 ft+ (9144 m)30,000 ft+ (9144 m)
SpeedtransonicMach .6 to .9
Rangeup to 15 mi (24 km)30 mi+ (48 km)+
PlatformsF-4, F-111, F-15EF-111F, F-15E

1 Manufacturer Rockwell International Corporation, now part of Boeing.
2 $242,500 Cost for the Electro-Optical TV guided version GBU-15.
3 $245,000 Cost for the Imaging Infrared guided version GBU-15.
4 1983 Initial Operational Capability of Electro-Optical TV guided version GBU-15.
5 1985 Initial Operational Capability of Imaging Infrared guided version GBU-15.
6 2001 Initial Operational Capability of Enhanced version EGBU-15.
7 Nominal weight of Mk 84 bomb is 2,000 lbs (907 kg); actual weight is 1,970 lbs (894 kg).

Estimates vary by source.

Specifications info from US Air Force, the Air Force Armament Museum, and the Federation of American Scientists.
Metric values calculated with the help of Convertworld.

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Research and Sources

"Desert Storm 1991 The most shattering air campaign in history" by Richard P. Hallion, Osprey publishing (ePub edition), 2022
"F-111 & EF-111 Units in Combat" by Peter E. Davies, Osprey publishing (ePub edition), 2014
"NATO's Air War for Kosovo - A Strategic and Operational Assessment" by Benjamin S. Lambeth, RAND (ePub edition), 2001
"F-15E Strike Eagle Units in Combat 1990–2005" Steve Davies, Osprey publishing, 2005
"Deliberate Force - A Case Study in Effective Air Campaigning" Col Robert C. Owen editor, Air University Press, Jan. 2000

More Links

Air Force Magazine

"Aerospace & Defense Technology" Magazine

Osprey Publishing (Military History)

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