Big Blue steals the show

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dylan Gentile
  • 919th Special Operations Wing
The bomb sat in a small warehouse, surrounded by parts of airplanes and repair equipment. Every footstep resonated off of the tin walls, and its thick green shell had already accumulated a thin layer of dust in the few days its arrival.

The armament easily dwarfed everything else in the room, and took center stage even among the other works-in-progress. The 15,000 pound weapon was another visible display of the legacy of Airmen serving on Florida’s Emerald Coast have made to the Air Force's rich and storied past.

The Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base received its newest exhibit Oct. 4, 2019, from Duke Field—the BLU-82/B, a bomb formerly used in as a psychological weapon because of its large and very visible blast radius.

“I was on the crew that dropped the last BLU-82,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bobby Barton, 919th Special Operations group superintendent. “Duke-based aircrews, both Active Duty and Reserve, employed the weapons during Operation Enduring Freedom. The 711th [Special Operations Squadron] dropped three of them early in the war in Afghanistan and several others to qualify crews to airdrop the weapon” so there are definite ties to our history during combat operations.

The bomb, also known as “Daisy Cutter” or “Big Blue” is one of the largest conventional weapons used in combat operations. Big Blue was created in 1968 by Sandia Laboratories and decommissioned in 2008. Airmen from the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field were actually the last to ever drop the bomb on July 15, 2008, at the Utah Test and Training Range

“The capability to drop was there, but with the advent of the GBU-43 (the MOAB), a much larger weapon with a more powerful explosive,” said Barton. “After the MOAB became an option, the push to drop more BLU-82’s went away.”

Its obsolescence would render the bomb a historical piece to be put in the museum.

“The museum has an armament focus,” said David Fitzpatrick, the director of the Air Force Armament Museum. “We are the only armament museum in the world. Bringing it here makes perfect sense as it fits right in our mission scope. It’s going to be used in an area that focuses primarily on Vietnam up to Operation Desert Storm and also the C-130 aircraft.”

The BLU-82 is one of the few remaining munitions of its time, said Samantha Ervin, a museum administration specialist at the Air Force Armament Museum. Ervin is spearheading the charge on the restoration process so that it could be ready to put onto display.

“Part of our mission at the museum is to educate the public on what we do at Eglin Air Force base and preserve its rich and vibrant history,” said Ervin.

The restoration process on the BLU-82 will take some time according to Ervin. It will involve, among other things, repairing the woodwork on the cradle and making the unit more mobile so it can be moved around.”

Ervin’s enthusiasm is hard to contain when thinking about the significance of the munition and the role it played in helping to develop more advanced weapons used in combat operations today.

“They’re never going to make [another BLU-82] again,” said Ervin. “It’s a piece of history. It’s exciting to get to work with a munition that’s not used [in combat] anymore.”