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Bombs on target

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Before the B-1B Lancer puts bombs on target, the ordnance is carefully tested and assembled by a team of Airmen from the 28th Munitions Squadron.

The team follows detailed technical orders, to ensure the process runs smoothly and safely, as they put together a Guided Bomb Unit-31.

The GBU-31 is a 2,000 pound, inertia-aided and global positioning system enabled bomb, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Seivert, 28 MUNS conventional maintenance crew chief. This means the bomb uses both its own momentum and electronic systems to guide it on target.

As the B-1 flies a mission, the on-board weapons systems officer inputs the coordinates of an assigned target. This activates a GPS unit housed in the tail of the bomb. The GPS unit then communicates with the computer in the B-1, telling the WSO precisely when to release the bomb.

We, said Sergeant Seivert, need to make sure the software programs on the bomb speak the same language as the weapons systems computer on the B-1. If they don't, then there is a chance the bomb won't be released properly.

Once the bomb is released it enters a freefall where its inertia builds. After it reaches a certain altitude and speed, the electronic systems housed in the tail section take over. The fins make adjustments and corrections based on the coordinates provided by the WSO to the GPS unit. This guides the bomb precisely on target.

"This bomb is accurate within a few meters," said Sergeant Seivert.

The tail end of the bomb doesn't just contain a GPS unit. It also houses a system that records all maintenance work done to the bomb during its lifetime.

If there is ever an issue with a bomb the team involved can track the problem down through its electronic maintenance history, said Sergeant Seivert. This ensures the bombs used during combat operations are operating at 100 percent efficiency.

However, not all of the bombs assembled by the munitions squadron are used for combat operations.

"Most of the bombs we build here are for training purposes," said Airman 1st Class Derrick Scott, 28 MUNS conventional munitions maintenance crewmember. "They are used to help the B-1 crew complete their certifications before they deploy."

Sergeant Seivert said the more training time the B-1 flight crew gets at Ellsworth with the training bombs the munitions squadron assembles, the less training they will need once they deploy; this translates to a higher mission rate.

Each bomb assembled by 28 MUNS, whether inert or active, must be put together with absolute perfection, according to Sergeant Seivert. Everyone assigned to the bomb assembly must work together to ensure the job is completed successfully.

"It's amazing how we come together as a team," said Airman Scott.

The team itself takes numerous safety precautions when handling the bombs.

According to Senior Airman Tiffany Porterfield , 28 MUNS conventional maintenance crewmember, Airmen working in the assembly area must periodically ground themselves to prevent a static charge from building up. That small amount of generated electricity can be enough to set off an active bomb.

"We take care to observe all safety procedures when we are assembling a bomb," said Sergeant Seivert. "Every piece of the bomb must be individually inspected for damages and defects before it's assembled."

Once each piece is inspected, it is carefully attached to the bomb assembly. The munitions squadron takes great care in properly inspecting and assembling the bombs that are put on target during training missions and combat operations, ensuring the Ellsworth B-1s continue to fly successful missions.