Pilots must rely on simple flares, chaff rounds, and rapid maneuvers to evade ground fire. Since new attack aircraft cost over $60 million each, some experts think that modern radar-guided guns and heat-seeking missiles have made close air support missions too risky. Attack aircraft can make a leap in the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) by developing a Timed Universal Rearward Destroyer (TURD) airburst bomb.
A TURD would be an MK 82 500 lb general purpose bomb with a BSU-49/B high-drag kit called a "ballute" that inflates and act as a parachute to rapidly slow the forward movement of the bomb. (left) Drag kits are used to prevent aircraft from being damaged by their own bombs during low-level attack missions. However, if these bombs were also fitted with a timed detonator for airburst, these "TURDs" would prove valuable in SEAD operations.
In high threat environments, an attack aircraft could release a TURD after it pulls away from a target. A TURD exploding in mid-air behind an attack aircraft may not destroy enemy SAMs in flight, but the airburst of a 500 lb bomb would confuse heat-seeking missiles, blind radar systems with "snow", and distract the aim of AAA gunners. Aircraft at higher altitudes may drop a TURD to shake-off or destroy a pursuing missile.
TURDs also provide an edge in air combat. Pilots can take bogeys head-on and drop a TURD just before they pass, leaving an exploding 500 lb gift for the bogey to fly into. TURDs may prove valuable against fighters that maneuver behind them. A pilot can pull up and release a TURD to explode near his pursuers. This would prove particularly helpful for slower ground attack aircraft like the A-10 and low-level bombers like the B-1. Aircraft may also use TURDs when they detect an incoming long-range missile like the AMRAAM. It could turn toward the missile, then turn sharply while releasing a TURD in order to "throw " it forward. The aircraft turns away as the TURD explodes in front of the incoming missile to confuse and possibly destroy it.
TURDs are not a new idea. During the Cold War, pilots of British Buccaneer bombers were trained to drop a 1000 lb parachute-retarded bomb while operating at low-level to discourage a fighter pressing them from the rear. This practice was known as "retard defense," or informally as "dropping your knickers." During the 1960s, an accepted tactic for American strike pilots flying very low-level strike missions was to drop a 500 lb hi-drag bomb and let the attacker fly into the cloud of frag, rocks, and dirt left behind.
Fighter pilots may dislike TURDs because they seem unsportsmanlike and incorporating them in adversary training would prove difficult. However, modern simulators could be programmed to evaluate the effect of TURDs on fighter tactics. Advanced TURDs may be developed that include chaff, smoke, and flares within the bomb to provide better cover. Meanwhile, existing bomb fuzes should be modified with timers to study TURD tactics.