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Staff Sgt. Jacob Leasum, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Blue, guides a GBU-31 bomb into place during the first quarter weapons load crew competition, April 12, 2024, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The fast-paced competition pitted the F-16 Fighting Falcon team against the F-15 Eagle team in an assessment of their knowledge, proficiency, speed and skill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (April 12, 2024): How does the U.S. military turn “dumb bombs” into highly accurate precision guided munitions that can are effective in all weather conditions? In this photo by Samuel King, Jr., Staff Sergeant Jacob Leasum, 96th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Blue, guides a GBU-31 “smart” bomb into place during a weapons load crew competition. The GBU-31, also known as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), is a guidance kit that converts gravity bombs into guided missiles that are not affected by environmental conditions.

The U.S. discovered a major flaw in its air-to-ground warfare strategy during Desert Storm when supposedly precision guided weapons were ineffective due to rain, clouds, fog, dust, or smoke. The infrared “seekers” used on American bombs were obscured by desert dust and smoke and therefore could not “see” their targets.

To counter this, the U.S. military commissioned Boeing to develop the first ever integrated inertial guidance system coupled to a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. Jointly developed by the Air Force and Navy, hence the "joint" in JDAM, the kits create a munition that is not affected by smoke or weather. The guidance package is bolted onto 500-to-2,000-pound unguided gravity bombs. The kit includes a tail section with aerodynamic control surfaces and a combined inertial guidance system with a GPS unit.

Finally, the JDAM is a “fire and forget” weapon that does not require the pilot to stick around to guide the bomb to its target. This allows the pilot to launch the weapon and leave the area before the enemy can respond.

Thanks to the cooperative effort of the Air Force and Navy and the innovation of Boeing scientists, the JDAM will continue to be an accurate and reliable weapon in America’s defense arsenal.