In July 2018, the Air Force’s latest guided weapon, the GBU-53B “Stormbreaker” entered operational testing and is progressing ahead of schedule, so much so that it may enter the operational fleet by early 2019.
This newest version of the Air Force’s Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), is a 250-pound-class weapon that now uses a millimeter wave radar to pierce all types of weather. It also has a fused-imaging, infrared seeker on the front of the bomb that helps categorize targets.
As Jim Merger of Raytheon’s Missile Systems business development stated, “you can tell it, I’m looking for a tracked vehicle?’ And it will classify the different targets for you…and goes, ‘That’s what you’re looking for?’”
In addition to its GPS-assisted guidance system, this new version may also carry a laser seeker to more precisely strike the target. It also has two antennas allowing it to communicate on the Link 16 network or an ultra-high frequency communications system.
This communications breakthrough allows pilots to send new information to the Stormbreaker after the weapon has left its launch platform, be it a fighter or a bomber. Merger excitedly highlighted, “Imagine…they [an aircrew] have to defend against swarming boats. You can start sending a whole bunch of the SDB IIs out to go find the boats as you are providing information to them, data linking to them.”
While the Stormbreaker will provide the Air Force and Navy with an all-weather weapon that can find its own targets while receiving updates from its launch vehicle, the real question is, how did the Air Force get to this point? It began a 100 years ago, with a Bug. (excerpt)
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