The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) concluded its Dialable Effects Munition demonstration program during a test of the experimental weapon July 28. The Dialable Effects Munition (DEM), an Office of the Secretary of Defense-funded Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, aims to mature, demonstrate and transition technologies that enable a weapon’s effects to be tailored dynamically in flight. This new capability will give the Department of the Air Force the ability to prosecute targets more effectively in high-end fights, which equates to greater mission flexibility.
During the mission, an F-16 from the 96th Test Wing released a single DEM onto the target area. Prior to the weapon’s release, the pilot programmed the DEM to conduct a precise lethal footprint attack from the cockpit. The precise lethal footprint attack focuses the weapons effects to a limited area where collateral damage could be a concern. An earlier successful mission demonstrated the DEM’s ability to conduct a wide area attack mission, which delivers effects across a large target area. Additionally, a sled test was conducted to confirm the weapon’s perforation capability in late 2020.
The DEM is a 2,000-pound munition containing a number of AFRL Munitions Directorate technologies as well as contributions from the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command and contractor partners including Faxon Machining and L3 Harris. DEM technologies include a pre-formed fragment warhead case, an electronic safe and arm device, distributed embedded firesets, and a precision height-of-burst sensor. These technologies control the weapon’s lethal footprint, fragment speed and direction, while a Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kit guides the munition to the target.
In effect, the pilot can select munition effects based on three critical mission areas: An Area Attack effect that detonates high above the target for maximum dispersed effects over the area where collateral damage is not an issue; A Precise Lethal Footprint effect that detonates lower over the target to confine effects to a small area for low-collateral damage; and a Surface Target Perforation effect that detonates after the weapon punches through a structure. The success of the DEM’s first live flight test was bolstered by AFRL’s partnership with OSD and United States Central Command.
Although DEM continues testing, its fuzing, explosives, warhead, and sensors have transitioned to several weapons programs. While the technology is useful in weapons of many sizes, a large form factor will give the Department of the Air Force a unitary weapon that performs as well or better than current cluster munitions; albeit, without the concerns of unexploded ordnance or UXO. With the success of this test, aircrews will be able to modify munitions effects to accommodate dynamic target tasking in-flight, enabling a capability that greatly influences the success of pilots and aircrews in diverse and dynamic battlefields.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force. The Laboratory was formed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, on 31 October 1997 as a consolidation of four Air Force laboratory facilities (Wright, Phillips, Rome, and Armstrong) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under a unified command. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space, and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,000 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development.