Back to the Cold War: The LABS Maneuver

by Crocker on December 10, 2009, 11:35 am

in History,Military,Politics

Put this post into the bin of Cold War military oddities both fascinating and horrifying.

The “LABS Maneuver” (LABS standing for “Low Altitude Bombing System”) was a way of lobbing a nuclear or thermonuclear gravity bomb after a low-level run-in to the target. By the late 1950s, high-altitude strategic bombing was becoming less feasible because of improving Soviet air defenses. So, it became necessary to use existing aircraft – like the B-47 Stratojet – for low-level attack.

The problem was the nature of the weapons carried, which were thermonuclear gravity bombs like the Mark-15. If dropped conventionally from low altitude, the delivery aircraft would not be able to escape the weapon’s blast. By using LABS, the delivery aircraft could attack at low level, pull an Immelmann and lob the bomb near the top of its climb. The weapon would then travel in a parabolic arc and detonate over the target when the attacking aircraft was – in theory at least – outside the blast radius.

Here’s film of a B-47 – a jetliner-sized aircraft – flying the LABS maneuver.

Smaller tactical aircraft also trained in LABS and were forward deployed with thermonuclear weapons. For an enjoyable read, here’s an old F-100 pilot’s reminiscence, “The LABS Maneuver or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Idiot Loop”.

Be Sociable, Share!

Previous post:

Next post: