Weapon Systems

Super Hornet, GBU-31 combination means high-altitude bunker busting


The Super Hornet can carry multiple precision-guided GBU-31 bunker buster bombs, which are designed to blast through more than 3 meters of concrete and to destroy underground command centers.

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An aircraft maintenance crew loads a GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition onto an aircraft, on July 13, 2018, in North Carolina. [US Air Force]
An aircraft maintenance crew loads a GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition onto an aircraft, on July 13, 2018, in North Carolina. [US Air Force]

The US Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, when combined with the GBU-31 Joint Attack Direct Munition (JDAM), is a fearsome combination for destroying hardened underground bases.

The Super Hornet is a supersonic, twin-engine multi-role fighter aircraft capable of climbing above 15,240 meters at a top speed of Mach 1.6 (1,975 km/h).

The aircraft can conduct a sweeping array of missions such as close air support, strike, reconnaissance, escort and aerial refueling.

It boasts impressive ordnance, including air-to-air missiles, such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile).

Equipped with an M61A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon, it can also carry the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response), Paveway laser guided bombs and other munitions for ground attack.

The GBU-31 bunker buster

The Super Hornet is also capable of carrying the GBU-31 JDAM, a bunker buster penetrator warhead that is paired with the JDAM guidance tail kit. The kit turns any conventional, free-fall bomb into a precision-guided weapon.

The GBU-31 pairs well with the F/A-18E/F as it has an operational ceiling of 13,716 meters, allowing the aircraft to drop the bombs from high in the sky.

The JDAM tail kit makes the GBU-31 an all-weather, "smart" guided bomb through its use of an Inertial Navigation System (INS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) integrated control unit, pairing with the F/A-18E/F's all-weather and day-or-night capabilities.

The Super Hornet's operators can either upload target coordinates prior to takeoff or manually reset coordinates in flight, ensuring maximally lethal accuracy for the GBU-31's target.

With a payload capacity of more than 4,082kg, the Super Hornet can carry up to four GBU-31s, weighing in at about 907kg apiece. These four bombs can each be directed to different targets, decimating adversary capabilities in a single flight.

The GBU-31 has a range of 24km and can blast through more than 3.6 meters of reinforced concrete before detonating.

Its ability to penetrate deep in the earth makes it the ideal weapon against underground command and control centers and ammo bunkers.

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