RAF Lakenheath F-15E fighter jets drop live bombs on north coast of Scotland in USAF exercise
- Credit: Archant
Fighter jets from RAF Lakenheath have been carrying out live weapons drops in Scotland as part of a training exercise.
Dramatic images released by the US Air Force (USAF) show F-15E fighters from the 492nd Fighter Squadron dropping live Guided Bomb Unit-12s (GBU-12) on the far northern border of Scotland at Cape Wrath.
The exercise, on February 10, was the first live munitions drop along the northern border of Scotland. Usually squadrons would carry out their annual requirement of participating in one live weapons drop in the US, but the recent squeezing of USAF's budget meant the mission was postponed and it was felt to be more cost efficient to carry it out in the UK.
The location was chosen in negotiation with the Ministry of Defence.
According to USAF, dummy bombs had been dropped in the UK several years ago for practice, but never live munitions of such magnitude.
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The live bombs were dropped on a large rock in the ocean, away from the population. Laser guided bombs were used to add 'assurance to the accuracy of where the bomb is hitting', according to a USAF spokesman.
Six aircraft were scheduled to fly up to the site in the morning and another six in the afternoon, each aircraft carrying two live bombs.
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Master Sgt Shawn Osbourn, 492nd FS Weapons section chief, said: 'We knew about the mission approximately six weeks prior to the operation. We started working with munitions control, in which they built all munitions and were then responsible for loading them.
'GBU-12s are a good choice because of their laser accuracy. The laser is spot-on and can be easily directed, compared to dummy bombs which are free falling.'
With these particular munitions, once the live GBU-12 is dropped, the weapon enters into terminal guidance, falling from the sky on its own course. With 10 seconds remaining in time of flight, the laser is turned on and then spotted on the projected target. The bomb contains a seeker and is able to guide itself to the designated point.