Ghidrah Tactical Cluster Bomb
Many of the missions of Manoeuvre Air Support can be achieved using guns and rockets. Walter Bjourneby's recent article on G2mil describes how, when used correctly, Cluster bombs can be a very useful weapon for tactical support.
"When you employ the CBUs you have to take into account how big a pattern you want - due to the spin of the canister and the flutes on the bomblets they migrate sideways after release. Drop one too high and it functions early and the pattern on the ground has a hole in the donut. Thus an accurate drop could lead to missing the target. Dropped too close the pattern can be over-concentrated. This last isn't of much concern to the dropper.
We had 4 F4s with 6 CBU 24 each. I briefed and led the flight. I briefed a low angle delivery, 20 degree dive at 500K, releasing one CBU per pass, on call from the ground. We dropped at around 2300 feet AGL with a 2 second arm time with the radar fuzes set at 800 AGL. This gave us a concentrated pattern comprising an elongated ellipse on the ground. In effect, rather like an instant strafing pass. (Our F4Ds did not have a gun). Every time we dropped a CBU the MG fire stopped for quite awhile. I suppose they had to get a new crew or maybe even a new MG after each pass. The helo evac was successful with no helo losses. The same result might have been attained by conventional dive bombing with the same radar altitude set, but by coming in low-angle we could pin-point the target without a mark from the GFAC. As it was, the delivery method was very similar to a combat strafing pass only much more effective due to the 665 bomblets released each time".
Browsing the internet, there are many sites that have concerns about the humanitarian aspects of cluster bombs. The bomblets I'm considering here are impact detonated, so I don't feel these concerns apply here. The Rhodesians used cluster bombs in support of their Fireforces, and took the wise precaution of painting them in high visibility colours so duds were less of a hazard to their own troops and civilians. Possibly under certain conditions this allowed the pilot to see the pattern in flight and assess his coverage?
Currently there are three ways to deliver bomblets to an area. As well as the cluster bomb there are also attached dispensers, which require the aircraft to fly over the target and Container weapon systems such as Mjolner that are essentially a small cruise missile with a built in attached dispenser. These latter systems are more for long range stand off attacks, so their combat role is more strategic and does not concern us.
It does occur to me that it may be possible to create a three mode cluster bomb. This would look like a conventional bomb but would have an internal mechanism more like an attached dispenser. In other words it would be like a container weapons system but without long range features such as an engine, glide wings or sophisticated guidance system. The dispenser would be of a design that can be loaded with anti-personnel bomblets, Combined effect munitions such as the BLU-97, or a mix of the two.
We will call this bomb "Ghidrah", since it has three ways to bite.
Ghidrah must be compatible with systems such as WCMD and laser guidance noses. Rocket modules to boost range during low level attacks are also a possibility.
- As a conventional cluster bomb. The nature of the dispenser allows the rate at which the bomblets are ejected to be varied. By using this the bomb could compensate for being dropped too high and release bomblets at a slower rate to ensure an even pattern of coverage.
- As an attached dispenser the bomb could remain attached to the aircraft yet still release some or all of its bomblets. This gives the pilot more control over the accuracy and pattern of bomblets. For example, in a MOUT operation he could drop a fairly narrow pattern down the length of a street the enemy were advancing up.
- As a single iron bomb. Walter Bjorneby:
"if you drop a CBU24 unarmed it will not open and it will detonate as a bomb. I have a good friend, old head TAC pilot, who did just that bombing trucks with 24s. He said he wasn't going to waste his time flattening their tires and breaking their windshields with BBs when he could blow the crap out of a truck by hitting it with a 24 squarely. A CBU 24 hitting the ground unopened is at least as good as a 250 pound bomb."
Being able to use Ghidrah in this way give the pilot capability against targets such as bunkers and vehicles. CBU-24s were used in this way by just dropping them unarmed, but it may be prudent to provide Ghidrah with the option of an impact sensitive fuse.
Most CBUs are of the 800-1000lb nominal weight, with some as much as 2000lb. Given that Ghidrah is intended for a tactical role ie to support units in contact with the enemy it may be prudent to make Ghidrah smaller than current CBUs
What Ghidrah offers is versatility. A tactical support aircraft may carry a couple of Ghidrah to deal with any situation that rockets, guns and missiles cannot.
My Friend Ed Sackett comments:-
"I never heard that one about dropping an unarmed cluster. Makes me hark back to our discussions on inert bombs. How about inert bomblets? Say 50-lb billets of steel w/ fins on them: container opens, projectiles scatter just enough, and impact w/ a whump. If you accelerate the cluster w/ a small rocket booster just before it opens, you can hit a target at ~2500 fps imho. No unexploded munitions afterward, no peasants blowing themselves up years later, no clever gooks extracting TNT from duds and using it on us."