Personnel at 81WG successfully expended the first Australian manufactured BLU-111(AUS)B/B late last year.

The 500lb (227kg) high explosive warhead was delivered to 3SQN at RAAF Base Williamtown in October 2021, where it was configured by armament technicians as a Paveway II laser guided bomb, before being loaded onto the F-35A Lightning II for a training sortie.

The BLU-111(AUS)B/B is a direct replacement for the oldergeneration Mk82 warheads, delivering comparable performance while improving safety characteristics.

AIR6000 Weapons Project Engineering Manager SQNLDR Ryan Kell said once fully introduced into service, the BLU-111(AUS)B/B would be used as the go-to 500lb high explosive warhead during operations and training exercises.

“The BLU-111(AUS)B/B is intended for use in both Paveway II laser guided bombs and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) family of guided bombs,” SQNLDR Kell said.

“The development and production of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B has been an ongoing collaboration between the US Government, CASG, DSTG, Air Force and Australian industry, specifically the manufacturer, Australian Munitions.”

Production of the BLU-111(AUS)B/B started after the success of BLU-126(AUS)/B, 500lb low collateral bomb which first demonstrated Australia’s ability to produce reduced sensitivity warheads using locally manufactured ingredients for the explosive fill.

SQNLDR Kell said a key benefit of sovereign production was its ability to improve the safety and performance of our weapons to best meet our needs.

“The design is based on the United States manufactured BLU111B/B, but has been tailored to meet Australian production methods while providing improved safety characteristics,” SQNLDR Kell said.

“Aircraft bomb warheads have been produced in Australia for a number of decades, but the BLU111(AUS)B/B warhead represents a generational change in explosives manufacture and safety technologies through use of a polymer-bonded explosive fill and design features which reduce the likelihood of the warhead detonating in the event of a safety incident.”

While initial use of the BLU111(AUS)B/B is primarily by the F-35A, future use of the BLU111(AUS)B/B is likely to extend beyond 81WG, to include Hawk 127 lead-in fighter, F/A-18F Super Hornet and future platforms such as the MQ-9B Sky Guardian, that will employ 500lb-class weapons.

Director Combat Capability GPCAPT Guy Adams said this warhead represented the next step in Australian defence industry supplying sovereign manufactured weapons for use by current and future Air Force air combat platforms.

“Having 500lb bombs produced in Australia, increases our self-reliance and resilience of our air combat platforms and the warfighting capability they provide,” GPCAPT Adams said.

“As a future line of effort, having the ability to act as a second line of supply to allied nations could see Australia providing warheads for use by allies during operations or training, which would greatly enhance international relationships and interoperability.”