The JP233 was submunition delivery system used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornadoes for attacking enemy runways. The idea of the system was that the Tornado would fly over the target runway, at which point the system would dispense SG-357 cratering bomblets (30 of which were in the JP233) to damage the runway, and HB-876 anti-personnel mines (there were 215 HB-876s in the JP233) to prevent rapid repair of the runway.
Obviously, the intention of the weapon was to prevent, or at least reduce the rate enemy of enemy air sorties, allowing British and Allied airforces to gain air superiority. If conventional war against the communist Warsaw Pact had occurred, the JP233 would undoubtedly have been extremely helpful in this role. However, there has been some debate about whether such missions were worthwhile against less sophisticated enemy a airforces, such as the Iraqi Air Force.
During the Gulf War, British and Saudi Arabian Tornadoes used the JP233, and were indeed successful at disabling many Iraqi runways using the weapon. How significant a contribution this was to the Coalition war effort remains unclear, since Iraqi aircraft mostly fled, were destroyed on the ground, or were placed in storage - the Iraqis attempted very few actual combat missions.
As the Tornado aircraft employing the weapon, were required to fly at low altitude along the runway, and were brightly illuminated by the munitions if using them at night, and would under go violent trim changes when JP233 pod was jettisoned, continued use of the weapon was felt to expose the aircrew to unnecessary risk. It should be noted that these risks were not as nearly high as many people (incorrectly) believe: over 100 JP233s were used, but only one JP233 mission was shot down, and this was several minutes after the JP233 attack had been completed.
After the Gulf War, the JP233 was withdrawn from service as it was felt that stand-off munitions could achieve the same goals with much lower risk to aircrew. Additionally, the HB-876 mines contained within the JP233 could no longer be used once Britain signed the Ottawa Treaty which bans the use of anti-personnel mines.
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