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Dispensers and submunitions: in dealing with groups of armoured vehicles, some form of dispenser may be employed to provide area coverage by means of a number of guided or unguided submunitions. (Complete Guide).

Submunitions are thus called because they are in effect clusters of warheads enclosed in various forms of frames. These can be air-launched dispensers, but also artillery shells or rockets, and now even drones.

CEB, SFW etc.

The basic American dispenser is the 450-kg class Alliant Techsystems Tactical Munitions Dispenser (TMD), which can be released at speeds from 370 to 1300 km/hr, at heights from 200 to 40 000 ft, at climb angles up to 30 degrees and in dive angles up to 60 degrees.

In SUU-64 form the TMD carries a combined total of 94 BLU-91/B anti-tank and BLU-92/B anti-personnel mines, and is known as the Gator weapon system, designated CBU-89/B by the US Air Force and CBU-78/B by the US Navy. In SUU-65 form with 202 BLU-97/B Combined Effects Bomblets (CEB) and optional FZU-39/B proximity fuze, it becomes the Alliant Techsystems CBU87/B Combined Effects Munition (CEM). The CEB has a shaped charge, a fragmenting case and a zirconium ring for incendiary effects. In SUU-66 form with ten BLU-108/B submunitions, each with four IR sensor-fuzed skeet EFP (explosively-formed projectile) warheads, the TMD becomes the CBU-97/B Sensor-Fuzed Weapon. Prime contractor for the SFW is Textron Systems.

In early 2001, following US Air Force orders for 2700 baseline SFWs, full-rate production of the upgraded P3I SFW was approved. The P3I variant introduces a multi-faceted blast-fragmentation ring that adds a shotgun effect against smaller, softer targets, and an improved radar altimeter. The modified warhead allows almost twice the ground area to be covered effectively. The P3I is estimated to provide a 140 per cent improvement in targets killed for only a 20 per cent increase in cost (from $ 300,000 to around $ 360,000). The Air Force plans to buy over 300 P3Is annually until 2011.

Bazalt SPBE-D

The Russian equivalent of the TMD is the Bazalt RBK-500, which can carry 268 PTAB-1M shaped charge warheads, each weighing 0.94 kg and capable of penetrating 240 mm of armour. The RBK-500U version houses 15 Bazalt SPBE-D sensor-fuzed EFP warheads, each weighing 14.5 kg and equipped with dual infrared sensors. The smaller RBK-250 can carry 30 PTAB-2.5 shaped charge warheads, each weighing 2.8 kg.

Modern Russian helicopters, such as the Mi-28 and Ka-50 series, can carry up to four KMG-U dispensers, each weighing approximately 470 kg and typically housing 96 PTAB-2.5s or 248 PTAB-1Ms.


Returning to America's TMD-based series, the US Air Force is having up to 40,000 fitted with Lockheed Martin Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) inertial navigation tail kits, with a unit cost of approximately $ 9000. The original objective was to achieve an accuracy of 25 metres in drops from up to 40,000 feet, but there have been reports that much better results have been achieved in tests. The US Air Force plans to buy a total of 22,000 CBU-103s based on the CEM, 5000 CBU-104s based on the Gator, and 4000 CBU-105s based on the SFW. The service is also considering the purchase of around 7500 examples of an extended-range version (WCMD-ER) with GPS navigation and folding wings, to reach out to 60 km.

AFDS & Msov

Other submunition dispensers include the Eads AFDS (Autonomous Free-flight Dispenser System), a lifting body with stub wings that provide a range of around 10 km from low-level release and 20 km from altitude. The AFDS was originally fitted with only inertial guidance, but (as in the case of the DWS24/39 sold to Sweden) is flow also available with GPS. The Israel Military Industries Msov (Modular Stand-Off Vehicle) is a swing wing glide dispenser with GPS/INS navigation and a variety of submunitions. Maximum range is 100 km.


The somewhat more refined shape of the Raytheon AGM-154 Jsow (Joint Stand-Off Weapon) provides a range of up to 130 km. Combined GPS/INS navigation is used. Development of the dedicated anti-armour AGM-154B with six P3I BLU-108 submunitions from the SFW has been completed, and the US Navy may purchase it at a later stage. Meanwhile, the baseline AGM154A with 145 BLU-97 CEBs is in series production and provides some capability against lightly armoured vehicles. The US Air Force plans to buy 3000 and the US Navy 8800.


One of the most advanced submunitions is the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Locaas (Low-Cost Autonomous Attack System), a US Air Force project that is currently in the advanced technology demonstration (ATD) phase. In essence, the Locaas is a swing-wing turbojet-powered missile combining GPS/INS mid-course navigation with a ladar terminal seeker, automatic target recognition and a multi-mode warhead by Alliant Techsystems (ATK). This is basically an EFP warhead, but it can also be made to function in a long-rod penetration mode for close-in heavily armoured targets, as an aerostable slug for longer stand-off distances or in a multi-fragment mode for softer targets. Unit price for the Locaas is expected to be approximately $33,000 in FY98 values. If development is successful, three Locaas could be carried in the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Jassm (Joint Air-Surface Stand-off Missile), four in a TMD and ten in the proposed Lodis dispenser. The Locaas could also be delivered by the US Army MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) or Atacms (Army Tactical Missile System).
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Publication:Armada International
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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