The U.S. Air Force has awarded $897 million to two companies for new bunker buster bombs. Superior Forge and Steel Corp., Lima, Ohio, was awarded up to $476,935,075 and A. Finkl & Sons Co., Chicago, was awarded up to $419,633,500 for BLU-137/B penetrator warhead production. The deals, announced Wednesday by the Department of Defense, come under indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts for BLU-137/B penetrator warhead production.
The new 2,000-pound class bombs are built around an improved warhead called the BLU-137/B, which will replace existing weapons that have already been a key element in the fight against ISIS. No technical specifications for the BLU-137/B have been released, but FlightGlobal reported in 2017 that the BLU-137 is an improved and re-designated BLU-109 designed to correct deficiencies and improve the reliability of the weapon. The new warhead uses a modified Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kit and is only compatible with JDAM’s GPS/INS guidance system.
The new bunker buster bombs will be less likely to fail to explode than those currently being used in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Air Force wrote in its 2018 fiscal budget that the BLU-137 will “increase fuze survivability when used against bunkers, aircraft shelters, and reinforced targets” so it will more reliably explode after punching through its target. The BLU-137 will increase fuze survivability when used against bunkers, aircraft shelters, and reinforced targets,” meaning that after the bomb penetrates the target, it is more likely that the AFX-757 explosive that fills the upgraded bomb will explode.
The contracts allows the companies to each produce 300 bombs during the first year of the contracts, and up to 3,500 more each in the four years that follow. Work will be performed in Chicago, Ill., Falconer, N.Y., Corry, Penn., and Burr Ridge, Ill., and is expected to be completed by May 3, 2020. Fiscal production funds amounting to $16.7 million and $15 million have been obligated to the companies at the time of the award.