Air Force Developed Bombs Capable of Destroying Syria’s Chemical Weapons

B-2The U.S. Air Force has spent years developing so-called “Agent Defeat Weapons” designed to target and destroy stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons without dispersing or releasing them to surrounding areas, service officials said.

“The U.S. Air Force has Agent Defeat Weapons designed to limit collateral damage and effects,” Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy told Military.com. “The munitions are PAW (Passive Attack Weapon) and Crash Pad.”

Both of these weapons would be carried by aircraft such as the F-15 or F-22 fighter jets and B-2 or B-1 bombers. It’s likely the Air Force would deploy the weapons from a B-2 or F-22 to take advantage of their radar-evading stealth technology considering the advanced air defense systems in Syria.

Could these weapons be used if a strike on Syria is ordered? Air Force officials would not comment upon whether the Agent Defeat Weapons were part of the discussion or strategic calculus regarding Syria.

An official with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, did not offer any specifics regarding planning details or ongoing considerations – but did tell Military.com that planning sessions, meetings and considerations were currently underway.

“The Joint Staff continues to meet and plan in order to provide the best possible military advice and options to the President. It would be inappropriate to speculate on what decision the President might make and what military options might be used in support of that decision. The U.S. military remains postured to provide a range of military capabilities as directed by the President,” said Cmdr. Scott McIlnay, spokesman with Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon.

The CrashPad, or BLU-119/B weapon is a high-heat explosive bomb designed to incinerate chemical agents before they can be harmful, according to defense officials and DoD documents.

The weapon is a 420-pound, high-heat incendiary weapon with what’s called a “blast-fragmentation” warhead. The Crash Pad is built from an existing standard MK 84 bomb body. The “PAD” in CrashPad stands for “Prompt Agent Defeat,” referring to the weapon’s ability to destroy chemical and biological agents without causing contamination, official documents describe.

The Passive Attack Weapon, or PAW, involves firing a host of steel and tungsten penetrator rods to create a “kinetic energy” battlefield effect without using an explosive. The weapon, first used to knock out antennas in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, is among the weapons used to advance what strategists call “effects based warfare.”

The idea with effects-based warfare is to achieve a strategically valuable battlefield “effect” without necessarily having to damage or attack large portions of the infrastructure of the attacked country or area. The PAW penetrator rods, which range from several inches to more than one-foot, can disable an enemy fuel tank, antenna or helicopter without necessarily damaging people.

One analyst said if the PAW were to be fired from a high enough altitude and was able to travel with enough terminal velocity – it could destroy chemical weapons stockpiles without releasing contaminants.

“When you hit something at high velocity, what you get is a flash of incredible heat in a confined area extremely fast. That can vaporize everything in small area,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based think tank.

Goure likened the effect to the impact of so-called “Sabo” Kinetic Energy 120mm tank rounds fired by the U.S. Army’s M1Abrams tank.

“A Sabo round is essentially the same thing, a combination of spalling and heat effects. The round melts its way into the tank,” he said.

Being able to generate enough heat sufficient to incinerate or neutralize the harmful agents is an essential ingredient to the success of Agent Defeat Weapons, according to military officials and scientists.

“Most agent defeat options—including nuclear weapons and high-explosives—neutralize chemical or biological agents by raising the target’s temperature. Thus, to assess any weapon’s effectiveness, we must first determine the threshold temperature for rapid agent neutralization,” Brookings Institution Scientist Michael A. Levi said in written testimony to the National Academy of Sciences, 2004.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at Military.com.

46 Comments on "Air Force Developed Bombs Capable of Destroying Syria’s Chemical Weapons"

  1. This cannot be so. Our president and Sec. State say differently.

  2. I'm sure the AF has some cool tricks up their sleeve for situations like this, but I just don't see how you can possibly be sure that you have accomplished the task of eliminating chemical agents without some boots on the ground. I'm not naive, I know there are probably already some SF types there. But if you are going to strike into a nominally sovereign nation and you want to make sure the chems have been eliminated, I would think you would need a fair number of troops to secure the sites, while specialists inspect them and ensure destruction.

    If you don't, how the hell can you ever be really sure of your BDA and know that you have accomplished the goal?

    If you do put even a moderate force on the ground to do all this, it greatly complicates the task, and increases risks. I would think you would need at least a ranger battalion to insert by helicopter to secure the site. To send them in, you are going to have to make sure IADS and ground forces in the vicinity are eliminated. You will need a QRF of Marines or big Army ready to go if the Rangers get bogged down, etc.

    I am obviously not a military strategist, so can anyone tell me where I am wrong and this can be done with out larger engagement?

  3. Totally agree. In Iraqi freedom the US was not able to disable all of the scud missile launchers. There is no way to pinpoint every chemical loaded round or filled tank and destroy them.

    I do not see a strategic importance high enought to use and risk F22s and B2s.

    Also… This is not a situation in which you want a prompt victory by the opposition that is so divided and infiltrated by jihadists.

    I expect a limited attack for three days. Damaging the sirian command structure, arm stockpile and first of all the airforce and airports would put the regime in a difficult situation by loosimg a safe supply channel from Iran and close air support/bombing capability.

    Hopefully this will weaken Assad and give a chance to put pressure on the regime for some sort of transition.

  4. If we have expended good money to develop this weapon, & it is deigned that we will be making these strikes; then let's not get "cold feet" & "blink" on this. Beyond this, I would be pressing Turkey to weigh in & support this, along with France. Turkey has, most probably, the largest & best equipped military in this region; & they have a very contentious situation along their border with Syria….

  5. platypusfriend | August 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Reply

    s/Sabo/Sabot/

  6. There seems to be some confusion between CrashPAD and the BLU-119/B Shredder (which is a modified BLU-109, not Mark 84)… See http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/11/secret-ro

  7. "The PAW penetrator rods, which range from several inches to more than one-foot, can disable an enemy fuel tank, antenna or helicopter without necessarily damaging people."

    Somebody's going to have to explain this one to me: How can a spray of near supersonic foot long tungsten rods not utterly destroy a human being? Did DARPA finally create pure magic?

  8. This magic bullet doesn't seem real to me. At best this is a faint to deceive our enemies.

  9. I don't understand how someone dying from a chemical attack is any different than someone dying from a bullet or bomb? It didn't seem to bother anyone when Syrian civilians were dying from bullets. Why is Obama got his panties in a twist? Dead is dead.

  10. Hmm, this is one of the worst-written articles I've seen on DT, I'm afraid. It's 'sabot', not 'Sabo', and they do NOT 'melt' their way through a target – the detonation of a HEAT warhead produces a stream of fine particles that punch through armour through kinetic energy alone – no melting. And too-many uses of 'so-called'; in all cases, that IS what the thing is called!

  11. 'A Sabo round is essentially the same thing, a combination of spalling and heat effects. The round melts its way into the tank,” he said'

    "Sabot" has a "T" in it.

    It's French – yea…

  12. Since the Syrian's know we are coming I find it hard to believe any WMDs are now stored in any quanity worth the use of a bomb on. I would have scattered them all over the place. Maybe even sent some back to Iraq.

  13. Our bombs are capable. Our leadership not so much.

  14. According to Drudge, the military is a little cash strapped; hey buddy, can you lend me a bomb or two??

  15. How about just not going in anyone think of that why do we need to go in to syria and do anything what are the Exec's motives for this, I don't think it's A good idea at all maybe I'm wrong but that's how I feel, at this time we don't even have solid evidence as to who used WMD's so what up with even thinking about A strike on their country ????

  16. A. Proof that Syria detonated the gas: There is no proof.
    Obama claims to have Syrian voice communications.
    However he will not release them to the American public. Why?
    1. A shot across the bow is a threat; it does no damage.
    2. In Obama-speak, he means to bomb alleged Syrian
    chemical weapons sites.
    3. Co-lateral damage. If he does hit a chemical storage
    site, they may detonate, causing more civilian death and injury.
    4. Any US strike gives Assad the opportunity to detonate the
    chemicals, and blame resulting civilian death and injury on
    the US. World-wide condemnation of the US would
    result.
    5. Assad could retaliate and overwhelm the US Embassy in Syria. Remember what happened when our embassy in Libya was attacked.
    6. US missiles may miss their targets and destroy civilian
    population. Assad could bomb his own people and blame
    it on US missiles.
    7. If the US strike escalates into a war, the US will own it, just like
    Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not want to pay in US lives and money for another damned war!

  17. Have we actually tested this "agent defeat weapon" to see if it actually will work as intended? This is the first I've heard of this weapon, and I would imagine that our government would be extremely reluctant to put sarin or VX precursors in the middle of a test range and hit them with a bomb, for fear that something might go wrong.

  18. I am so afraid this is going to go so wrong!!!! I think everyone should go to confession as soon as possible and ask GOD for forgiveness!!!! This may lead to the end of the world!!!!!

  19. The USAF…Ya gotta be in awe of them…(The tip of the spear…).

  20. Just Nuke the bastards

  21. Unfortunately, there is no one to get behind who can replace Assad. He kept the peace with Israel all these years. What comes next will be true savages.

  22. Advanced air defenses haha, that is just a joke these days, did anybody not see what the champ missile can do? These "air defenses" are cold war era junk! Radar sites are the easiest target to destroy. There are untold ways to defeat these S-300 sam sites, simply flying a stealth weapon to them is probably just the cheapest.

  23. Nice but the president said it will be a Cruise Missile attack for now so no fixed wing manned planes will be used. I dont know why you think a NFZ will be used now in this conflict your wrong.

  24. Can we drop one on the White House and eliminate the toxic agents that are currently stored there?

  25. In this era of so much fiscal concern and "where are we going to get the money to fund our military effectively enough?",
    it's odd that our president is so eager to waste even more financial resources in this proxy-war-turning-hot-soon.

    Sad thing is, all weekend on various TV news, we hear of the surrounding neighbor countries and so mant Arab nations decrying, "something must be done!"
    Perhaps this time we (the West and Europe) need to take a stance back and let Syria's Arab neighbors handle the situation.

  26. Has anyone noticed any any convoy going to Iraq? Maybe the Syrians would return the WMDs to their friends in Iraq to put them out of harms way just like so many of you believe Saddam did. Maybe we should be using these weapons on trucks heading east.

  27. Why are we not hearing any mention of Russia's treaty/agreement to defend Syria?

  28. Could this prophecy be that which is coming to pass?
    Isaiah 17:1
    Proclamation Against Syria and Israel 17 The burden against Damascus. "Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap.
    Jeremiah 49:23-27
    23 Against Damascus. "Hamath and Arpad are shamed, For they have heard bad news. They are fainthearted; There is trouble on the sea; It cannot be quiet.
    24 Damascus has grown feeble; She turns to flee, And fear has seized her. Anguish and sorrows have taken her like a woman in labor.
    25 Why is the city of praise not deserted, the city of My joy?
    26 Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, And all the men of war shall be cut off in that day," says the Lord of hosts.
    27 "I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, And it shall consume the palaces of Ben-Hadad."
    NKJV
    Amos 1:5
    5 I will also break the gate bar of Damascus, And cut off the inhabitant from the Valley of Aven, And the one who holds the scepter from Beth Eden. The people of Syria shall go captive to Kir," Says the Lord.
    NKJV

    What do you think?

  29. Let me get this. We spent billions of dollars and ten years on incinerating our chemical weapons stockpiles and all we needed to do was drop a bomb on them?

  30. Syria's use of chem weapons in nothing compared to what happened in Iraq. Tens of thousand of Kurds and Iranian soldiers were killed by the use of chemical agents, yet we did nothing to punish Sadam till President Bush took action years later. Where was the moral outrage then? Why didn't we attack Iraq when this happened?
    Syria is in a serious civil war many thousand of bombs rockete and over 100,000 deaths so far a few dozen cruise missiles thrown in at empty buildings and vacant airfields will do nothing to change anything. The goal is not to effect regime change well what will be accomplished? Nothing except Asad will probably use more chem weapons to show he is not intimidated, Iran may take actions the chefs may start showing up in the hands of terror groups used against Israel Jordan, or other friendly nations. So why throw a few missiles at a nation that won' t care? Will it make President Obama seem more statesman like more credible or just lost in the failed area of foreign policy? It is my belief that this is political theater not the foreign policy of a super power.
    George N. Roll Ltc. (ret) USAF PhD candidate, MS MPA

  31. THEY GOT THEM,AND I SAY USE THEM.THE LONGER THEY WAIT THE LONGER IT GOING TO GO ON.:BOMB THE HELL OUT OF THEM

  32. ABDELKADER HAMDAOUI | September 5, 2013 at 7:43 am | Reply

    Make sure we target the Russian and the Chinese embassies while we are at it, just as we did in Yugoslavia. Embarking upon a belligerent act on false pretenses again and getting away with it just because as a big bully we can on behalf of our paymasters the Saudis. A bunch of gangsters that's what we have become.

  33. First if we violet a foreign country by bombing it is technically an act of war. Second these people have been fighting among themselves for hundreds of years. When and if this may develop into an actual security threat to the homeland then we can blow someone out of the water so to speak.

  34. One thing of which we can be quite certain is that if there is ANY way for Obama to screw this up, he'll find it.
    That alone is enough reason to stay out of Syria.
    But most important…. Why does Obama feel necessary to intercede here, but stayed away fro Benghazi where the United States WAS attacked?

  35. The developers must be Sci-FI readers. In one book metal spikes were shot out of cannon like devices to acheive hyper velocity speeds to penetrate deeply buried bunkers and caves where civilians were hiding and kill them the same way the authors describe destroying the chemical weapons..

  36. Does US emperor wants to test their new technologies on Syrian people?
    What if some of those poisons were released?
    US admin. is guilty same as Russian… both are fighting each other using the Syrian blood…. the first used AlQaeda and supported them, the second the russian used Assad regime and supported him
    In Syria there are humans Mr Obamam https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4945542

  37. Why waste such a high tech weapon on such a low tech problem. The russkies will just easily monitor the flight activities with various radars until they figure out a way to defeat the stealth properties of the aircraft. They did this in Kosovo and eventually succeeded in shooting down an F-118. Better to send in a few hundred drones with standoff weapons. Save the best for more serious problems that we hope never arise, but as history shows, do arise.

  38. @Jacob; there is a range within CONUS that is designed for testing ordnance and other measures against live agents such as sarin, VX, and mustard. Also, the Brookings Institute scientist quoted at the end of the article speaks of determining 'the threshold temperature for rapid agent neutralization', which is somewhat confusing since there is quite a bit of data available on the physical characteristics of various chemical weapons.

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