When ordinance is loaded onto a fighter or bomber, does the system automatically know what ordnance it has? Or does the pilot have to manually input for each pylon?


2 Answers 2


On the B-52G and H models (at least in the 80s when I worked on the simulator) weapon loading was part of the data read into the Offensive Avionics System preflight, from a digital tape cartridge.


The FMS provides a method for the user to load a sortie and a mission data file from the DTS. Up to eight sorties can be resident on a DTC. Each sortie contains up to nine B-52 missions. Mission data consist of a set of up to 99 pre-planned destinations, 99 fixpoints, 42 OAPs and data required by the weapon SMOs for release of weapons at one or more of the destinations. The resident sortie or mission, if any, can be viewed on the Mission Supervision Display, CF-8, or the Mission Data Load Display, CF-81. To load a sortie and mission see Mission Supervision Display this section.


FMS allows the operator to load multiple Stores Management Overlays (SMO) into memory and select one of the loaded SMO to be the Primary SMO. For each possible weapon location one SMO can be loaded. The CF-62 display shows all the SMO available from the DTS, indicates which (if any) of these SMO are already loaded, indicates which SMO (if any) is the primary SMO, allows the operator to modify what SMO are loaded, what location(s) each SMO is to control, and allows the operator to select a SMO to be the primary SMO. To load SMOs and designate a primary SMO see SMO Load Menu (CF-62) this section.


  • DTC Digital Tape Cartridge
  • DTS Digital Tape System
  • FMS Flight Management Software
  • OAP Offset Aimpoint
  • SMO Store Management Overlay

Source: Radar Navigator’s/Navigator’s Manual USAF SERIES B-52H AIRCRAFT, page 1-134


This depends on the aircraft in question, but current F-16 and above get programmed with whatever load they are carrying. The pilot does not have to do it manually.

There is a Common Central Interface Unit (CCIU) the ground crew programs when they load the aircraft.


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    $\begingroup$ Just to clarify - this still means that someone manually inputs the loadout either via computer or data cartrige right? The plane won't "autodetect" what's hanging on the pylons? $\endgroup$
    – Mavrik
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 10:24
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Mavrik - Some munitions can tell the aircraft what they are, some cannot. AIM-9 vs AIM-120 on a wingtip launcher, it can tell the jet. MK-82 (500lb) vs MK-84 (2000lb) dumb bomb...there is no data connection. The aircraft can know "something" is there. But not what. $\endgroup$
    – WPNSGuy
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:12
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @mins - Not everything is "smart". A Triple Ejector Rack (TER), with 3x MK-82 dumb bombs looks, to the jet, exactly the same as 3x 25lb BDU-33 practice bombs. $\endgroup$
    – WPNSGuy
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @mins I could see reliability being an issue. If somehow the avionics detect no munitions or incorrect munitions, then it may be impossible to deploy them. Also the same munitions may be loaded onto aircraft with very different avionics packages from very different manufacturers. Of course new contracts could specify standards, but it would take a few decades for enough aircraft and munitions to be refreshed to make the standards actually standard. Which is not to say it's not a good idea. Maybe it's just not been seen as a good enough idea for change to happen. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Mavrik - Even earlier. Current "smart bombs" are mostly Vietnam era bombs, with a guidance unit on the front, and steerable fins on the back. The GBU-12 Paveway II is literally that, a 500lb Mk-82 general purpose bomb, with bolted on "smarts". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-12_Paveway_II $\endgroup$
    – WPNSGuy
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 19:54

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