Originally known as the LAAAS (Low-Altitude Airfield Attack System), the JP233 was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 submunition delivery system consisting of large dispenser pods carrying several hundred submunitions designed to attack runway
According to ICAO a runway is a "defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and take-off of aircraft." Runways may be a man-made surface or a natural surface .- Orientation and dimensions :Runways are named by a number between 01 and 36, which is generally one tenth...


Design and development

Development of the system began in 1977 as a 50/50 cooperative program between the U.S. Air Force and Hunting Engineering (now known as INSYS
INSYS Ltd is a British defence contractor, located in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. INSYS is a leading UK defence contractor supplying integrated system solutions to the UK and allied armed forces directly or through global prime contractors. It was formed by a management buy-out of Hunting Engineering...

) of the UK. The USAF intended to use the weapon with its FB-111
General Dynamics F-111
The General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" was a medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft that also filled the roles of strategic bomber, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare in its various versions. Developed in the 1960s by General Dynamics, it first entered service in 1967 with the...

 strike aircraft; however, in 1982 rising costs forced them to pull out of the program, and the British completed development on their own for potential use with the Tornado
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

, Jaguar
The SEPECAT Jaguar is an Anglo-French jet ground attack aircraft, originally used by the British Royal Air Force and the French Armée de l'Air in the close air support and nuclear strike role, and still in service with several export customers, notably the Indian Air Force and the Royal Air Force...

 and Harrier
Harrier Jump Jet
The Harrier, informally referred to as the Jump Jet, is a family of British-designed military jet aircraft capable of vertical/short takeoff and landing operations...


The dispensers could be carried on wing pylons: short-finned containers for bomblets, or medium-length finned containers for mines. The F-111 was capable of carrying a pair of each type, but the Jaguar and Harrier would only be able to carry a single pair of either type. However, the Tornado could be fitted with a pair of much larger pods on the shoulder pylons, each containing both types of munition. Each JP233 as fitted to the Tornado was divided into a rear section with 30 SG-357 runway cratering submunitions, while the front section carried 215 HB-876
HB 876 mine
The HB 876 mine was an air dropped area denial weapon. It was used as part of the JP233 runway denial system and the 'Hades' variant of the BL755 cluster bomb. As a result of the anti-personnel mine ban it was withdrawn from British Army service, and the last stockpiles of the mine were destroyed...

 anti-personnel mine
Anti-personnel mine
Anti-personnel mines are a form of land mine designed for use against humans, as opposed to anti-tank mines, which are designed for use against vehicles...

s. Both types of submunitions were retarded by small parachutes.

The SG-357, which weighed 26 kilograms (75 pounds), was a two-stage munition – a shaped charge
Shaped charge
A shaped charge is an explosive charge shaped to focus the effect of the explosive's energy. Various types are used to cut and form metal, to initiate nuclear weapons, to penetrate armor, and in the oil and gas industry...

 in the front blasted a hole in a runway's concrete, then a second charge fell into the hole and exploded, producing a large crater. The HB-876 mines would lie scattered on the surface, making rapid repair of the runway nearly impossible. They would explode at preset intervals or if disturbed, and were capable of disabling bulldozers or other earth-moving machines.

Unlike most other submunition delivery systems that essentially function as free-falling bombs, the JP233 dispenser pods remained with their aircraft during operation and were jettisoned once empty.


Deployment was rather frightening for the flight crew, since it required the aircraft to fly low, straight and level over an enemy airfield, and when over the runway the pods would dispense their payload. During the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 it was widely reported in the popular press that Tornados were shot down by AAA fire and MANPADS during delivery of the JP233 munition, but in fact none of the losses occurred during the attack phase of a JP233 mission. Only one aircraft was lost carrying the JP233 munition when Tornado ZA392 crashed into the ground 16 km (9.9 mi) after delivering the weapon at low level; enemy fire was not reported and it was believed that this was an incident of controlled flight into terrain
Controlled flight into terrain
Controlled flight into terrain describes an accident in which an airworthy aircraft, under pilot control, is unintentionally flown into the ground, a mountain, water, or an obstacle. The term was coined by engineers at Boeing in the late 1970s...


What did alarm the crews of British and Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

n Tornados using JP233 however was that the aircraft was brightly illuminated at night by the exploding munitions. Attacks using JP233 were suspended six days into the Gulf War, as the Iraqi Air Force was effectively flying no missions.

With the increasing availability of standoff attack munitions capable of the same mission with little risk to the flight crew and aircraft, and the British entry into the Land Mines Treaty (which declares the HB-876 illegal), the JP233 has been withdrawn from service.
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