Two Miniature Air Launch Decoys sit side-by-side in the munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., March 21. MALDs, when uploaded to the B-52H Stratofortress, are capable of reprogramming while the aircraft is in flight. MALDs are programmed to run several different routes to give aircrews more options when flying in enemy territory. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
Airman 1st Class Evan Kirchner, 2nd Munitions Squadron, directs a forklift in the munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., March 21. Airmen from the 2 MUNS rearranged munitions in the storage area to make more space for an incoming shipment of Miniature Air Launch Decoys. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
Senior Airmen Jacob Coltson, 2nd Munitions Squadron, directs a fork lift carrying unloaded Miniature Air Launch Decoys into a munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., March 21. MALDs are small jet powered decoys used to throw off enemy integrated air defense systems. Currently the B-52H Stratofortress and the F-16 Fighting Falcon are the only aircraft capable of carrying MALDs. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
Airmen from the 2nd Munitions Squadron stack Miniature Air Launch Decoys in the munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., March 21. The B-52H Stratofortress is capable of carrying up to 16 MALDs at a time while the F-16 Fighting Falcon can carry up to four. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
by Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
3/23/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- A radar screen illuminates its operator's complacent face when suddenly a little green dot makes its way onto the monitor. The radar operator reaches for a phone when suddenly the dot begins multiplying. Franticly, the radar operator dials his commander's number to inform him of an impending attack, but it's too late. A small group of U.S. fighters and bombers zoom in from different directions strategically taking out their targets as a missile-like object flies in from the other direction.
The U.S. Air Force is currently testing and incorporating new armaments to be used by the B-52H Stratofortress and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The new armaments are Miniature Air Launch Decoys and Miniature Air Launch Decoy Jammers. MALDs are small jet powered decoys used to mislead radars and deceive enemy combatants. MALD Jammers provide the same function with the added capability of jamming enemy radars allowing friendly aircraft to fly into the area undetected said Capt. Kera Rolsen, 96th Bomb Squadron weapons and tactics assistant flight commander.
"The B-52 is the best platform for the MALD," said Col. John Vitacca, 2nd Operations Group commander. "It's the only aircraft currently capable of reprogramming the MALD while airborne, giving the war fighter more options."
The other aircraft capable of carrying MALDs is the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The F-16 is capable of carrying four MALDs that have to be programmed before they are loaded to the aircraft. The B-52 can not only reprogram the MALD in flight, it currently has the ability to carry up to 16 MALDs capable of carrying out multiple missions said Capt. Tony Curtis, 2nd Operations Support Squadron MALD POC.
"With two B-52s, you can free up an entire squadron of F-16s and still have space to carry weapons or other armaments," said Rolsen.
Once fired, the MALD flies its preprogrammed route to carry out its mission to deceive the enemies' assets.
"The MALD is a force multiplier," said Maj. Maxwell Dipietro, 2 OSS weapons and tactics flight commander. "It allows us to shape the airspace the way we want to so we can fight the way we want to."
Curtis said, MALDs are capable of deceiving integrated air defense systems like radars and anti-aircraft weaponry.
The MALD also brings a psychological factor to the fight.
"If we can integrate the fog of war for the enemy and confuse them, it gives us the advantage," said Curtis. "The MALD is the only armament that we want to be seen by the enemy. If a MALD gets shot down by anti-aircraft artillery it's considered a success. It's one less missile we have to worry about to keep our Airmen safe."
MALDs can be programmed to prevent collateral damage said Curtis.
After the U.S. fighters and bombers have left the scene, the missile-like object seen before, continues on to the horizon. The projectile decelerates and its nomenclature becomes evident; it's a MALD. The MALD arches towards an empty space in the desert and accelerates towards the ground. As the dust and smoke float to the sky, a silhouette of a B-52 peaks through the clouds.