Israel placed four GBU-31 JDAMs under the wings of its F-16s

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A seldom-seen photograph has made its way onto the digital landscape. To be specific, it depicts an unusual array of weaponry on the F-16 C/I Fighting Falcon, a jet belonging to the Israeli Air Force [IAF]. 

Photo credit: Twitter

In the photo, meticulous viewers can observe the unique armament. Stations 3, 4, 6, and 7 below the F-16’s wings each accommodate a GBU-31 JDAM, while dual Python-4/5s are mounted on stations 2 and 8. Further complementing the arsenal, stations 1 and 9 feature two AIM-120C-series AMRAAMs each and nestled in station 5 is a 300-gallon drop tank. 

In the annals of military aviation, it is highly unusual to glimpse a fully loaded fighter jet, let alone the formidable F-16 C/I Fighting Falcon. The timing of the photo is unclear, but the vast assortment of weaponry indicates it was likely snapped just prior to the jet embarking on airstrikes to Gaza, amidst conflicts initiated on October 7. 

While there are instances of Israeli jets being armed for exercises, it is rare to see them decked out in complete combat gear. Thus, one could surmise the photo was taken just minutes before this bird took flight on an authentic mission of combat. 

Interestingly, the “JDAM” munitions have gained considerable popularity in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with the Russian Aerospace Forces deploying them with increased frequency, simply due to their greater supply. The Russian version of JDAM is called KAB [adjustable aerial bombs].

JDAMs represent an ingenious kit that addresses a key challenge: utilizing a gravity bomb amidst sophisticated air defense systems and a mobile, dynamic military context. The kit transforms unguided bombs into guided shells with navigation and wings, dramatically extending their range. Major arms manufacturers, such as Russia, USA, and Israel among others, have found value in this technology.

The F-16 C/I, also known as the F-16C Block 50/52, is an upgraded version of the standard F-16C. This variant was developed to improve the aircraft’s capabilities in both air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. The F-16 C/I is equipped with an advanced radar system, the AN/APG-68[V]9, which provides a longer range, higher resolution, and the ability to track more targets simultaneously compared to the radar system in the standard F-16C.

The F-16 C/I also features an improved engine. Depending on the block, it either has the General Electric F110-GE-129 or the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229. These engines provide greater thrust, improving the aircraft’s speed, maneuverability, and overall performance. In contrast, the standard F-16C is equipped with either the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 or the General Electric F110-GE-100.

Another significant difference lies in the avionics and weapon systems. The F-16 C/I has advanced avionics for navigation and target acquisition, including a modular mission computer that enhances its capabilities in combat situations. It also has an expanded weapons package that includes advanced air-to-air, air-to-surface, and anti-ship missiles, giving it a wider range of operational capabilities.

Finally, the F-16 C/I has a Conformal Fuel Tank [CFT] capability, which are additional fuel tank fitted to the body of the aircraft. This allows for increased range and endurance without sacrificing too much aerodynamic performance. The standard F-16C, on the other hand, does not have this feature.

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