An Anatomy of an Air Strike

Specific details for the Mark 80 series and Paveway attachments


Originally developed in the 1960s during the Vietnam War, the Mark 80 series of air-dropped bombs are now part of the military arsenal of at least 24 countries, including the UK and US, and have been prominent in many recent conflicts and campaigns.10

The Mk 80 series of bombs are a group of heavy, high-explosive weapons, weighing between 500lbs and 2,000lbs. The largest in this family is the Guided Bomb Unit-10 (GBU-10). The GBU-10 consists of an Mk 84 bomb fitted with a Paveway II laser guidance system.

It stands at 4.32m, two and a half times the height of the average adult male.

Even without its guidance system, the basic bomb weighs 2,000lb (approximately 907kg). Nearly half of the weight of a general-purpose bomb is its explosive content. The GBU-10 contains 945lb (approx. 428kg) of high-explosive Tritonal.

These are extremely powerful bombs, with a large destructive capacity when used in populated areas. They can blow apart buildings and kill and injure people hundreds of metres from the point of detonation.

The fragmentation pattern and range of a 2,000lb Mk 84 bomb is difficult to predict, but it is generally said that this weapon has a ‘lethal radius’ (i.e. the distance in which it is likely to kill people in the vicinity) of up to 360m.

The blast waves of such a weapon can create a very great concussive effect; a 2,000lb bomb can be expected to cause severe injury and damage as far as 800 meters from the point of impact. The wide-area impact of these weapons can be affected by a range of tactical, technical, and environmental factors, including fusing and the angle of attack.

The Mark 80 class of weapons uses a shape known as Aero 1A. It has a length-to-diameter ratio of about 8:1. It includes four basic weapon types:

  • Mark 81 – nominal weight 250 pounds (113 kg)
  • Mark 82 – nominal weight 500 pounds (227 kg)
  • Mark 83 – nominal weight 1,000 pounds (454 kg)
  • Mark 84 – nominal weight 2,000 pounds (907 kg)

Smart bomb kits – the Paveway series
Dumb Mk 80 bombs could be converted to smart bombs with attached kits. The major producer of smart bomb kits is the US company Raytheon. Between 2006 and 2015, the US Department of Defence issued a total contract order of USD $ 1.3 billion (see Raytheon US DoD contracts) to Raytheon for the provision of ‘bombs’.

In total some $30.4 billion has been won in contracts from the US government by Raytheon and its subsidiaries since the war on Terror began (from 11 Sep, 2016 up to the end of February, 2016 – see Raytheon US federal contracts).

The Paveweay series include the

  • GBU-12D Paveway II (Mk 82) laser guided.
  • GBU-16B Paveway II (Mk 83) laser guided.
  • GBU-24B Paveway III (Mk 84) laser guided.

 The Paveway series of bombs includes:

  • GBU-10 Paveway II – Mk 84 or BLU-109 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb
  • GBU-12 Paveway II – Mk 82 500 lb (227 kg) bomb
  • GBU-16 Paveway II – Mk 83 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb
  • GBU-58 Paveway II – Mk 81 250 lb (113.4 kg) bomb
  • GBU-22 Paveway III – Mk 82 500 lb (227 kg) bomb. Developed at the same time as GBU-24, with some limited export success, but was not adopted by USA as it was felt to be too small a warhead for the desired effects at the time.
  • GBU-24 Paveway III – Mk 84/BLU-109 2,000 lb (907 kg) class bomb
  • GBU-27 Paveway III – BLU-109 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb with penetration warhead, specially designed for F-117 because the large fins of GBU-24 couldn’t fit into the bomb bay of F-117.
  • GBU-28 Paveway III – During the Gulf War, the deepest and most hardened Iraqi bunkers could not be defeated by the BLU-109/B penetrator warhead, so a much more powerful “bunker buster” GBU-28 was developed. The latest warhead used in the GBU-28/B series is the BLU-122/B, a development of earlier BLU-113 on early GBU-28s.
  • Paveway IV – 500 lb (227 kg) bomb
  • GBU-48 Enhanced Paveway II – Mk 83 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb. Raytheon’s Enhanced dual-mode GPS and Laser guided version of the laser-only GBU-16.
  • GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II – BLU-133 500 lb (227 kg) bomb. Raytheon’s Enhanced dual-mode GPS and Laser guided version of the laser-only GBU-12.
  • GBU-50 Enhanced Paveway II – Mk 84 or BLU-109 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb. Raytheon’s Enhanced dual-mode GPS and Laser guided version of the laser-only GBU-10.
  • GBU-59 Enhanced Paveway II – Mk 81 250 lb (113.4 kg) bomb. Raytheon’s Enhanced dual-mode GPS and Laser guided version of the laser-only GBU-58.

Numbering systems
There is scope for confusion regarding weapons called ‘Paveway X’. The numbering systems include:

  • The original numbering system from 1-3, with the different planned variants differing in types of guidance. As 2 and 3 never entered service, this numbering system is obsolete.
  • The system used currently by US forces, which numbers in chronological order
  • The system used by the RAF, which numbers earlier versions of the Paveway as 2 and 3 – with 2 referring to a 1,000lb bomb and 3 referring to a 2,000lb bomb – and Enhanced Paveway 2 and 3 to refer to GPS/INS-added versions of the same. The Paveway 4  is the same weapon in this and the above system.