A-10C Thunderbolt II Brings New Lightning

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vaughn Weber
  • 355 WG/PA

Seven A-10C Thunderbolt II test pilots performed both developmental and operational tests and evaluations on 23 live GBU-39B small diameter bombs to validate the weapon performance and aircraft software at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug 22, 2023.


The GBU-39B SDB’s were field tested on the A-10s in the summer of 2023. However, the difference between the A-10 and other fighter aircraft comes in its ability to carry the bombs on 6 different weapon stations and takeoff with up to 16 of these bombs. This is the first time SDBs have been built and employed from DM and the units here will be the second units to ever employ them live from A-10s.


The A-10 Combined Test Force from Morris Air National Guard Base, AZ visited DM this past week to test these weapons out in the Pt. Mugu Sea Range, AZ with three A-10s. This is a 36,000 mile test range offering the opportunity for maximum range SDB releases. In total 22 test events were planned allowing for seven specific test objectives and data gathering from each. This was the first live maximum range SDB employment for the A-10s.


“It’s been awesome, this is the first time doing this at DM but also the first time with the base working as a whole,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Col. Leif Nordhagen, AATC Combined Task Force director. “This works, the technical orders make sense and they’re already finding some things to educate people on and are ensuring that a TO is double checked and done right.”


Maintenance crews from the 354th Fighter Generation Squadron have gotten hands on experience and were able to provide insight into what needs to be rewritten in their TOs to make the process and techniques for making installing the GBU-39B SDBs safe.


“For example you can hardly load station four with the tank on because the tire wants to go into the tank,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brian White, 354th FGS armament specialist. “What we did with the pre-loaded bomb loader allowed for one on top of the other which is much faster than taking 2-3 minutes for every bomb to pick it up.”


Additionally when this started out, the bomb loading was intended for live load, however all the spots had been taken by another unit. To rectify this problem research into the net explosive weight, which is the difference between how much a munition weighs versus how much explosive weight is inside that munition, was done.


“We did a little bit of math and figured out we were four pounds shy of the maximum NEW on each one of these spots. We started making some phone calls and getting approvals to make sure we were good to push that NEW in these spots which helped everyone out a lot,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Dodd, Air Education and Training Command weapons expediter. “It saved us a lot of time with being able to do it here and kept these guys from having to share spots and sorties with another unit allowing for everything to be kept in house.”


The 355th Munitions Group built and delivered the 23 GBU-39B SDB’s, which were racked on BRU-61s from the 162nd Fighter Wing to be tested by two A-10s from the 354th Fighter Squadron and one A-10 from the 924th Fighter Group. A better Air Force is built upon teamwork.