USAF releases 5,000lb Penetrator bomb for the first time

A USAF F-15E Strike Eagle of the 96th Test Wing flew over the Eglin Air Force Base test range in Florida and released a GBU-72 Advanced 5,000Ib Penetrator bomb from 35,000ft on October 7.

The mission was part of a test series that commenced in July this year and included the first ever loading, flight and release of the 5000Ib weapon. The test series was performed via joint efforts from the 780th Test Squadron (TS) who planned the release and 40th Flight test Squadron (FTS) who performed the release from the F-15E. Both units are part of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. 

5000IB Armed
A 96th TW F-15E Strike Eagle armed with a GBU-72 5000Ib penetrator bomb at Eglin AFB. photo by USAF

The activity marked the conclusion of the test series which had goals to show the weapon could safely release from the F-15E which usually carries 2000Ib Joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) and validate the modified tail kit’s ability to control and navigate a 5000Ib munition.

In addition to the flight test, ground testing was also performed by the 780th TS of the 5000Ibs bomb. The ground tests determine the weapons lethality by being detonated whilst surrounded by blast pressure sensors and fragment counting equipment. The test series was deemed a success by the Armament Directorates Direct Attack Division. 

A 96TW F-15E Strike Eagle releases a GBU-72 5000Ib bomb over the Eglin test range. Photo by USAF

 Ronald Forch, a 780th TS programming engineer over the GBU-72 flight and ground test efforts said: “Test series of this magnitude are never successful, overall, because of just a single person or organisation. They are ultimately successful because the test engineer is able to perform a role very similar to that of a symphony conductor guiding the performance of a series of consecutive miracles – no more important than the other.”

The GBU-72 was developed for both fighter and bomber aircraft to have the capability of attacking hardened and deeply buried targets. The GBU-72 programme now moves on to additional JDAM integration testing and then in 2022, will move on the developmental and operational testing.