Lawmakers in the House Armed Services Committee have urged the US Air Force to expand the use of GBU-62 Joint Direct Attack Munitions – Extended Range (JDAM-ERs) from its B-2 Spirit bombers.

Alluding to increasing threats the US faces from its adversaries, the Committee noted its support for expanding the bomber’s capabilities in an amendment of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2025 at the end of May 2024.

With a tail section that contains an inertial navigational system and a global positioning system guidance control unit, the JDAM-ER is an air-to-surface guidance tail kit that converts conventional, unguided free-fall bombs into accurate, adverse weather ‘smart’ munitions.

The 500 pound JDAM-ER variant features a modular add-on wing kit, which utilises small diameter bomb glide technology. The wings unfold in flight and triple the range of the weapon from the standard 15 miles (24km) of a conventional JDAM system to more than 45 miles.

Boeing has produced JDAM systems since 1998. The programme is a joint US Air Force and Navy programme; they are also used by 26 other countries.

The B-2 Spirit is a low-observable, long-range, heavy bomber capable of performing all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet with a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled.

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The Air Force have dropped more than 600 JDAMs from the B-2 during the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, demonstrating enhanced air warfare capability with greater stealth and accuracy.

The Mark 82 500-pound variant bombs subsequently began development within the JDAM family of weapons at this time.

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit taxis at Royal Australian Air Force Base, Amberley, Australia, in support of a Bomber task Force mission on 25 July 2022. Credit: US Air Force.

Expanding B-2 capacity for JDAMs

The committee called on the the Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall III, to provide a briefing to the Committee no later than 1 February 2025 on the ability to field GBU-62 JDAMs on the B-2 bomber.

“The briefing can include a classified annex and include schedule and cost of fielding the GBU-62,” the report stipulated.

A B-2 can carry up to 16 satellite-guided JDAM missiles. US defence prime and B-2 manufacturer Northrop Grumman is converting the aircraft’s rack assembly to a new ‘smart’ configuration, which will increase the number of JDAMs which can be carried to a maximum of 80.

The aircraft will also be fitted with the joint stand-off weapon, joint air-to-surface stand-off missiles and the wind-compensated munitions dispenser and will be able to carry up to 80 115kg small diameter bombs.