Do military pilots need to dump their ordinance before landing?

Just watched a NY Times video about air support in the war in Afghanistan. When military pilots return to base with bombs/rockets/missiles/etc. still attached to their hardpoints, do they need to dump those items before landing?

I’ve seen references to this in the past, and the video included showing them dumping fuel, so I’d imagine getting rid of the weight, and the potential hazard if something should go wrong during landing is important, but I’m not sure how important…
Thanks in advance.

I don’t know the answer but I just stopped by to be a jerk and say the word is “ordnance.” :slight_smile:

Thank you. Spell checking won’t catch that particular error.

the policy they have to follow is in the ordnance ordinance.

They have been dropping ordnance for years as a means of preventing possible detonation during landing and reducing the risk of handling it after landing. The last thing you want is something falling off a wing when a pilot makes a hard landing, or worse. It’s a wise precaution.

However, not all ordnance is dropped. For many years, B-52s flew large routes over half the globe armed with nuclear weapons. They brought those weapons home each time (less one incident that comes to mind over Spain) Those weapons were not “armed” in the sense that they would explode if dropped though.

It makes sense. The NY Times video is about naval air support, so it’s pretty obvious they can drop their ordnance in the sea without hurting any people. Where do land-based pilots drop their ordnance? Does every air base have an area designated for the dropping?

I’d imagine ordinance in bomb bays can be treated differently from ordnance attached to hardpoints, is that right?

They don’t. Today’s ordnance is far too expensive to be thrown away and is pretty carefully constructed to avoid an accidental arming. You’re not going to toss away a $2 million AMRAAM for a one in a million chance of it going off unexpectedly.

They may or may not save the smart stuff, but I’ll bet the dumb bombs are still dumped. Especially on a carrier. Remember that incident on the USS Forrestal when a Zuni rocket accidentally fired (an electrical problem IIRC) on the flight deck? Not to mention landing weight considerations, which may require disposal prior to landing on a carrier.

I’ve heard that the F-14 would rarely carry a full load of 6 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles because it would exceed the safe carrier landing weight to return with all 6 and a normal fuel reserve. I can’t vouch for the absolute truth to this, it could just be scuttlebutt.

Sounds pretty wasteful, doesn’t it? I mean, cost aside, there is only so much ordnance a carrier can carry. A bomb they dump into the sea will be a bomb they won’t have for their next mission.

Yes, but that’s the price of mobility. The Air Force, to the best of my knowledge, does not dump ordnance. Of course, they have nice two-mile-long runways to land on. The Navy has to meet targeting requirements, range requirements, and weight requirements, and then land on something shorter than the street I live on. They can take off with low fuel and hit a tanker right away, the gross takeoff weight is usually much lower than the actual weight bearing limit of the aircraft. What happens, then, when they return after an aborted mission with a full load? Some of it has to go. Naval carrier operations are ridiculously expensive, but that’s the price we have to pay for the ability to project power and protect our interests globally.

I bet most people don’t. It happened in '67 or '68, I think, which was a pretty long time ago. I remember it vividly, even though I wasn’t there, because I was stationed with an Anti-submarine Warfare squadron on the USS John F. Kennedy in the early 1980’s. At least once a week we watched a training film consisting mostly of flight deck footage of the entire disaster. You can see the film on YouTube. The image of a chief petty officer running toward the fire carrying a PKP fire extinguisher is etched in my memory.

I recall this was often done in WWII to reduce weight and conserve fuel for the ride home.

NATO did this in international waters off Venice, Italy after bombing runs that were aborted for weather or damage in campaigns in Serbia/Albania. Later, minesweepers had to go and detonate the bombs as fishermen were snagging them in nets and suffered injuries from accidental detonations. Cruise ships also avoided Venice due to lack of knowledge exactly were the bombs were falling. This was for aircraft returning to Aviano Air Force Base - on land with plenty of runway.