The US Air Force (USAF) has performed the first test drops of its new Boeing Guided Bomb Unit‐ (GBU)-72 Advanced 5K (A5K) Penetrator, releasing the ‘bunker buster’ bomb from a Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle.
The service announced on 12 October that it had dropped the 5,000 lb weapon (the 5K in its moniker) on several occasions during a series of tests from late July through to early October.
“That series included the first-ever weapons load, flight and release of the weapon 23 July,” the USAF said. “The test series, deemed a success by the Armament Directorate’s Direct Attack Division, consisted of three flights”. The USAF noted that the final drop took place into the Elgin Air Force Base (AFB) range in Florida on 7 October, marking the end of the flight trials planned by the 780th Test Squadron and performed by the 40th Flight Test Squadron.
The GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator is a mish-mash of parts and uses a smaller bomb’s tail kit but doesn’t sacrifice performance. It may have been designed with Iranian or North Korean underground nuclear facilities in mind.
“The 5,000-pound bomb’s release marked the end of a test series planned by the 780th Test Squadron and performed by the 40th Flight Test Squadron,” The Air Force release on the recent test stated, explaining the purpose of the live-fire flight test.
The flight tests consisted of three flights, three drops, and three ground tests, which saw the 5,000-pound bomb explode in a specially-built bomb arena that measures the blast strength, radius, and other data.
The 5,000-pound weapon is logistically flexible and can deploy on large conventional strategic bombers like the Air Force’s B-52, stealthy platforms like the B-2 Spirit (and likely the Spirit’s future successor, the B-21 Raider), or much smaller fighter jets like the F-15 used in the most recent test.
One potential application for the GBU-72 would be against underground command and control facilities — or nuclear sites. Given the bomb’s penetration capabilities, North Korean, China and Iranian nuclear facilities could be a scenario in which GBU-72 might excel.
Israel, Australia and Taiwan could be potential export customers of the GPU-72 bunker buster bombs.
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