By Senior Airman Ryan Hansen
Air Armament Center Public Affairs
As the smoke begins to clear on Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Department of Defense continues to collect data on how well the U.S. military, and its arsenal of weapons, performed during combat operations. One weapon the DoD does not have to research is the CBU-105, better known as the Sensor Fuzed Weapon. The SFW, which falls under the Area Attack System Program Office here at Eglin, made its combat debut during OIF, and its report card was returned immediately after it was employed.
The SFW is a 1,000-pound class weapon containing sensor-fused submuntions for attacking armor. It is designed to engage, disrupt or even stop an adversary’s main armored force, while providing time for other friendly forces to reinforce the area.
On April 1, a B-52 Stratofortress crew deployed in support of OIF from the 20th Bomb Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., took to the air for one of its regular 17 hour-plus combat sorties.
After taking care of an ammunition dump in the northeastern part of Baghdad, the aircrew got a call for help from a Marine division that was being threatened by a large Iraqi tank column. A situation like that is exactly what the SFW was designed for. So the aircrew maneuvered the BUFF to the southeastern part of Baghdad where the confrontation was about to take place, received the target coordinates from the Marines on the ground, programmed two CBU-105s for their combat debut and got the approval for release.
“Those two weapons decimated, stopped dead, the entire tank column by killing the whole first one-third to half of it,” said Lt. Col. Chris Stockton, aircraft commander on the flight. “The first thing we heard back from the Marines was, ‘holy (crap).’ That is exactly what you want to hear on the radio from the guy you are supporting.”
But, the full effects of the SFW were not yet done being felt. As the rest of the Iraqi tank column saw what happened to their comrades, they decided they wanted no part of combat on that particular day.
“All they see is their boss’ tanks start blowing up within the space of a couple seconds,” Stockton said. “After that, the remaining two thirds of the tank column immediately surrendered and poured out of their tanks.”
So instead of having to possibly face combat against an entire tank column, the Marines simply had to round-up Iraqi prisoners who felt overmatched against the SFW.
As news of the CBU-105’s tremendous combat debut spread back to the states, members of the Area Attack SPO and the designers of the weapon at Textron Systems in Wilmington, Ma., were overjoyed.
“A lot of people have spent many, many years on this,” said Col. James Knox, Area Attack SPO director. “And the reason it works is because those people poured their lives, expertise, creativity and excellence into their job everyday to make sure this weapon is the most fearsome tank killer we have.”
Work on the SFW began back in 1992 with full-scale production beginning in 1996. Textron dropped the weapon 120 times before approving it for combat use.
“To see this moment actually occur kind of takes us full circle,” said Steve Sojda, Textron Systems. “It’s a tremendous moment for us. SFW has come through a lot of years and a lot of milestones, but this one is going to be a little bit hard to top as we move through time.”
Now that the weapon has proved itself in a combat environment, the possibilities are endless. Currently, the SFW can only be carried by the B-52 and F-16, but that will soon change as its popularity grows.
“I hope we see a lot more use of the Sensor Fuzed Weapon in environments where it’s suitable,” Stockton said. “It did what it was supposed to do, as advertised.”