The latest in a series of Paveway guided bombs is ready to see service with the RAF’s Tornado fleet following six successful months with the Harrier GR9 on operations in Afghanistan.
Paveway IV went into service in November 2008 and has become the freefall weapon of choice among pilots flying missions from Kandahar. The weapon is to continue its success story with the RAF’s Tornado GR4 aircraft which have taken over from the Harrier GR9s in the fight against insurgents:
“A number of front line pilots have said they have been very impressed with the weapon and it was the envy of the coalition air forces operating out of Kandahar,” said Squadron Leader Ian McKeown, the weapon’s requirements manager with Defence Equipment and Support’s [DE&S] Freefall Team.
“Harriers have dropped a significant number of weapons in support of ground operations against all manner of ground targets and in all modes of operation. Accuracy has been highly impressive and the weapon has not failed to find its target. It does what it needs to do.”
“Although less than half the weight of the UK Paveway II 1,000lb bomb it is in no way half the effectiveness. We are delivering a lot of punch in a smaller package and with greater accuracy.”
Paveway IV was born out of lessons learned in the Gulf and Kosovo campaigns where pilots had difficulties visually pinpointing targets through cloud. Pilots needed a more modern precision guided weapon which was deadly accurate in all conditions:
“The weapon builds on the success of previous versions of Paveway,” said Sqn Ldr McKeown. “It has GPS-aided inertial navigation meaning it’s not guided by satellite, but uses GPS information to update its inertial navigation system to make sure it’s on the right track.
“It has an air burst mode – the first time we’ve had an air burst function in a precision guided munition – an impact mode and a post-impact delay mode, so you can get the bomb into a building or partially underground to localise collateral effects. All of this is programmable from the cockpit, a key feature of the weapon.
“When contracted it didn’t have a laser seeker but, speaking to the front line, pilots still wanted that option. There are some situations where you may need to see the weapon to the target because you have troops close by.
“You may also need to steer the bomb away from its intended aim point if the tactical situation changes while the bomb is in the air. With laser guidance you can also track moving targets. The Freefall Team negotiated delivery of the additional laser capability as a no cost option.”
Raytheon Systems Ltd (RSL), a UK subsidiary of the American company, won the competition to design the bomb in 2003. Technology for the Enhanced Computer Control Group (ECCG) is provided by Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson and Thales Missile Electronics in Basingstoke supplied the all electronic in line fuze. The warhead case is made by General Dynamics in the US, with the explosive fill added by SEI in Sardinia.
Portsmouth Aviation Ltd and EDO-MBM in the UK supply the Airfoil Group and suspension lugs. Fuzing issues in 2007 meant there were delays to Paveway IV’s introduction to service. The urgency to get a through cloud bombing capability to support operations in Afghanistan meant the Freefall team entered into a programme with the Harrier team to deliver an interim capability on the Harrier GR9 – the Enhanced Paveway II Plus.
Sqn Ldr McKeown said:
“We worked with the Harrier team to deliver an interim munition which capitalised on the Paveway IV integration solution designed for the Harrier GR9. The Paveway IV ECCG was fitted to the UK 1,000lb bomb body to make a composite weapon, which became known as the ‘Frankenbomb’.
“This meant the Harrier GR9 got the precision all-weather and a laser-guided capability it needed for operations. It didn’t give the Harrier all the functionality Paveway IV had to offer, but it still provided the precision bombing capability required to meet the operational need.”
Co-operative working with RSL and Thales Missile Electronics helped swiftly address the fuzing issue. The weapon with the modified fuze successfully passed its operational evaluation and Paveway IV was introduced to service last November:
“The project has had its ups and downs,” conceded Sqn Ldr McKeown. “But through close working with industry and a pragmatic approach the project has delivered to its revised timescales.”
“We made a point of learning from experience with other weapon procurement projects and forged a close relationship with RSL, which has been very open and mutually supportive. I have worked with other systems and this was a refreshing change. The weapon is now integrated onto aircraft with a high level of functionality and in the roles that were requested.”
John Michel, Raytheon Systems Business Director of Precision Systems, said:
“Paveway IV is a tremendous achievement, and testament to the team ethos and trust forged between RSL and DE&S. Our strong relationship enabled all stakeholders to actively participate, which allowed risks and opportunities to be managed effectively.
“Feedback from operations is that Paveway IV is providing the MOD with a world-class strike capability, combined with advanced flexibility and significantly improved safety characteristics. We’re extremely proud to have delivered this system to the Armed Forces.”
“The Paveway IV provides an exponential leap in capability for the Harrier Force”, says Wing Commander Harvey Smyth, Officer Commanding IV(AC) Squadron. “The ability to reprogram the weapon in the cockpit, before release, has afforded aircrew the ability to properly weapon-to-target match. This is incredibly important, especially in today’s counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, where we are continuously endeavouring to remain proportional and discriminate by mitigating against the potential for even the slightest of collateral damage.
“For once we are in a position where other coalition fast-jet operators are envious of our capabilities however, more importantly, we now have a weapon which offers best effect for our troops on the ground.”
While Tornado will take on Paveway IV on its deployment to Kandahar the Freefall Team will continue to work with Tornado to enhance its integration solution.
The team is also working with the Typhoon Team to integrate the weapon onto Typhoon in the next few years, while future plans include integration onto the Joint Combat Aircraft. The Freefall team will also be responsible for Paveway IV’s in-service support:
“Paveway IV will be the backbone of our future freefall munitions stockpile,” said Freefall Project Team Leader, Simon Pearce. “We’ve come a long way and have delivered a capability of which we are justly proud.”