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LABS - Low Altitude Bombing System

Also known as "Toss Bombing" or the "Over the Shoulder Maneuver"


Toss bombing (sometimes known as loft bombing, and by the U.S. Air Force as the Low Altitude Bombing System, LABS) is a method of bombing where the attacking aircraft pulls upward when releasing its bomb load, giving the bomb additional time of flight by starting its ballistic path with an upward vector.

The purpose of toss bombing is to compensate for the gravity drop of the bomb in flight, and allow an aircraft to bomb a target without flying directly over it. This is in order to avoid overflying a heavily defended target, or in order to distance the attacking aircraft from the blast effects of a nuclear (or conventional) bomb.


Tactical use

Toss bombing is generally used by pilots whenever it is not desirable to overfly the target with the aircraft at an altitude sufficient for dive-bombing or level bombing. Such cases include heavy anti-air defenses such as AAA and SAMs, when deploying powerful weapons such as 2,000 lb. "iron bombs" or even tactical nuclear bombs, and the use of limited-aspect targeting devices for guided munitions.

To counter air defenses en route to the target, remaining at a low altitude for as long as possible allows the bomber to avoid radar and visual tracking and the launch envelope of older missile systems designed to be fired at targets overflying the missile site. However, a level pass at the target at low altitude will not only expose the aircraft to short-range defenses surrounding the target, but will place the aircraft in the bomb's blast radius. By executing a "pop-up" loft, on the other hand, the pilot releases the munition well outside the target area, out of range of air defenses. After release, the pilot can either dive back to low altitude or maintain the climb, in either case generally executing a sharp turn or "slice" away from the target. The blast produced by powerful munitions is thus avoided.

The value of toss-bombing was increased with the introduction of precision-guided munitions such as the laser-guided bomb. Previous "dumb bombs" required a very high degree of pilot and fire control computer precision to loft the bomb accurately to the target. Unguided loft bombing also generally called for the use of a larger bomb than would be necessary for a direct hit, in order to generate a larger blast that would destroy the target even if the bomb did not hit accurately due to windage or computer/pilot error. Laser-targeting (and other methods like GPS as used in the JDAM system) allows the bomb to correct minor deviations from the intended ballistic path after it has been released, making toss-bombing as accurate as level bombing while still providing most of the advantages of toss-bombing using unguided munitions.
However, the targeting pods used to deliver guided munitions generally have a limit to their field of view; most specifically, the pod usually cannot look behind the aircraft at more than a certain angle. Lofting the bomb allows the pilot to keep the target in front of the aircraft and thus within the targeting pod's field of view for as long as possible.

"Dive-tossing" is generally used at moderate altitude (to allow for the dive) when the target, for whatever reason, cannot be designated precisely by radar. A target for instance may present too small a signature to be visible on radar (such as the entrance to an underground bunker) or may be indistinguishable in a group of radar returns. The pilot can in this case use a special "boresight" mode that allows the pilot to designate a target by pointing his aircraft directly at it. For a target on the ground, this means entering a dive. Thus designated, the pilot can then begin a climb, lofting the bomb at the target from a distance and regaining lost altitude at the same time.

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/whotub ... oop-x.html

The US Air Force tactic known as ‘toss bombing’ or the ‘over-the-shoulder maneuver,’ is accomplished by flying towards the target at a lower altitude, pulling up to a sharp vertical plane and releasing the bomb just past vertical while executing a loop, essentially ‘throwing’ the bomb back toward the target compensating for the gravity effect on the bomb(s). This frightening tactic allowed the pilot time to put sufficient distance between his bomber and the target before the bombs exploded.

The first public demonstration of this maneuver was accomplished by a B-47 bomber at Eglin Air Force Base on May 7, 1957. The pilot released his payload into the air at a pre-determined point as the bomber executed a sharp half-loop.

As the bomb was released it continued on an upward path for some time before falling and hitting its target, which was a substantial distance from the bomb’s established release point.

Richard Bach, who is a retired USAF pilot, describes performing this feat vividly in his book, Stranger to the Ground:

A village that has red-roofed houses streaks by below me, and the target, white barrels shaped as a pyramid, is just visible at the end of my approach run. Five hundred knots per hour. Flipped the switch down, depressed the button.

Timers have started, circuits are warning the drop zone is near. Reduce altitude to treetop level. I don’t regularly fly at 500 knots on the flight deck, and it is quite obvious that I am progressing very fast. The white barrels are inflated. I can actually see the flaking white paint on the barrels.

The pyramid flashes beneath me. Center the needles of the indicator that is only used in a nuclear weapons drop. Pull back on the stick smoothly, firmly to read the g-force at four on the accelerometer and hold it.

I’ll bet those little computer hearts are really pounding and all I can see is the sky in the windshield. Hold the Gs, center the needles; there’s the sun, only it’s going under me and ‘WHAM’.

The bomber turns hard to the right, tucks tighter into the loop, and plods ahead even though we are upside down. The Shape has released me more than I have released it. The little white barrels, even smaller now, are six thousand feet directly beneath my canopy.

I have no way to tell if the drop was a good hit or not. That was decided by the diagrams and graphs, the math professionals, and the angles. I did my job, centering the needles, the computers completed their programming task automatically, and the nuke flew on its own the rest of the way.
I have done this successfully on accident when tossing bombs in anticipation of an extended dogfight and I wanted my guns to reload quicker, it was super funny to see kill notifications pop up unexpectedly.
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