Fuel Air Explosive Weapons

Fuel Air Explosive Weapon

Main Points.

  • Provides overpressure killing mechanism for soft targets in protected areas
  • Effective in clearing minefields; clearing brush for helicopter landing areas; vehicles in revetments

Conventional high-explosive fragmentation munitions were not very effective against clearing minefields and against troops in trenches and bunkers and similar targets. In 1960 China Lake began to pursue the development of fuel-air explosive weapons for these types of protected soft targets. China Lake’s involvement with FAE began with basic research of the FAE concept, continued through development of a variety of FAE weapons and their subsystems, and extended to Fleet Support of operational units. These blast-damage weapons have unique overpressure characteristics unavailable from conventional high-explosive munitions.

The first fuel air explosive weapon, FAE I, was the CBU-55A/B developed for use by helicopters and slow-speed aircraft. It was used extensively in the Vietnam War.

A second version of FAE I, CBU-72/B was designed for high-speed aircraft, consisting of a 550-lb cluster bomb containing three FAE submunitions, designated BLU-73/B. Each BLU-73/B weighs about 100-lbs and contains 75-lbs of ethylene oxide with airburst fuzing set for 30 feet. An aerosol cloud of approximately 60 feet in diameter and 8 feet thick is created and then ignited by an embedded detonator to produce and explosion of the fuel cloud. The Marine Corps dropped 254 CBU-72s, primarily from A-6-Es against mine fields and personnel in trenches.

In the 1970s and 1980s China Lake developed the 500-lb BLU-95 and the 2,000-lb BLU-96 FAE II weapons for wide-area, close-air-support, mine neutralization and antimaterial targets. It can be delivered over the full spectrum of aircraft attack speeds and delivery angles.

Other members of the FAE class of weapons developed were the SLU-FAE, a surface-launched system of rocket propelled FAE warheads launched from a tracked vehicle to clear a safe lane through a mine field; mass-air-delivered (MAD-FAE), a helicopter delivered FAE for breaching minefields.

Modern thermobaric versions of the weapon have been developed for use against caves in Afghanistan.