Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Small Booms Count

While the flight of two of our 20 B-2 stealth bombers over South Korea had their nuclear capabilities stressed as a warning to North Korea, I imagine the real threat is their capability of dropping several hundred smart bombs at once on North Korean long-range artillery that threatens Seoul.

Our use of nuclear-capable B-2 bombers during our exercises in South Korea sent a signal to North Korea:

"This is useful reminder to the South Koreans that the U.S. nuclear arm can reach out and touch North Korea from anywhere. We don't need to be sitting there at Osan Air Base," south of Seoul, said Ralph Cossa, president of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum CSIS think tank.

This is the bomb load that should cause sleepless nights in Pyongyang--not the nuclear payload:

Proponents claimed that by 2007 the B-2 could carry 216 [some accounts say as many as 324] of the 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs). Each BRU-61/A smart pneumatic carriage holds four SDB weapons, the rack weighs 320 pounds (145 kg) empty, and 1,460 pounds (664 kg) loaded with four 285 pound (130 kg) bombs. In principle, the B-2 has a total of 80 attach points for the 500-lb Mk 82 based GBU-30 JDAM, each of which could accommodate a single BRU-61/A rack, for a total of 320 SDB weapons. In practice, the resulting 117,000 lbs (53,000 kg) weight would exceed the B-2's nominal 40,000 pound (18,000 kilogram) payload by some wide margin. The bomber could of course trade up for somewhat more payload by trading off against fuel and un-refueled range. The widely cited 216 SDB carriage would result in 54 BRU-61/A racks, 27 in each bomb bay, for a total 78,800 pound (35,800 kilogram) payload, roughly double the nominal value.

The SDB can penetrate three feet of steel-reinforced concrete. North Korean gunners may want to measure their overhead cover.

Depending on refueling needs, a small number of B-2s could drop many hundreds of accurate bombs before the North Koreans were aware that they should be ducking for cover.