Small Diameter Bomb GBU-53 SDB-II StormBreaker
The GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II) StormBreaker is a joint interest United States Air Force (USAF) and Department of Navy (DoN) ACAT IC program, with the USAF as the lead service. SDB II addresses the following war-fighter requirements: attack moving and stationary targets, adverse weather operations, multiple kills per pass, multiple ordinance carriage, precision munitions capability, reduced munitions footprint, increased weapons effectiveness, minimized potential for collateral damage, reduced susceptibility of munitions to countermeasures and provides a network enabled weapon capability via Link-16 and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) weapon data link.
Small Diameter Bomb Increment ll (SDB II), StormBreaker, is a joint interest Air Force (AF) and Navy ACAT IC program, with the AF as the lead service. SDB II provides the warfighter the capability to attack mobile targets from stand-off, through adverse weather. The threshold aircraft for the AF is the F-1 5E and the threshold aircraft for the Navy are the F-35B and F35C. Objective aircraft include the F-16, F/A-18E/F, F-22A, F-35A. B-1B, B-2, B-52, A-10, MQ-9, and AC-130. SDB II will be compatible with the BRU-61 (Bomb Rack Unit) miniature munitions carriage, the CNU-660/E (Container Miscellaneous Unit) carriage system, the Common Munitions Bit and Reprogramming Equipment and the Joint Mission Planning System. The SDB II program will develop and field a single-weapon AF storage container and a dual Navy weapon storage container.
Poor weather and battlefield obscurants continue to endanger warfighters as adversaries rely on these conditions to escape attacks. This has established the requirement for an all-weather solution that enhances warfighters' capabilities when visibility is limited. The StormBreaker smart weapon, a Raytheon program for the U.S. Air Force, will provide this capability to the warfighter.
The seeker works in three modes to provide maximum operational flexibility: millimeter wave radar to detect and track targets through weather, imaging infrared for enhanced target discrimination and semi-active laser that enables the weapon to track an airborne laser designator or one on the ground.
StormBreaker features a revolutionary tri-mode seeker that uses imaging infrared and millimeter wave radar in its normal mode. The weapon can also deploy its semi-active laser or GPS guidance to hit targets. The StormBreaker® smart weapon gives operators an upper hand in combat by hitting moving targets in some of the worst weather conditions. The winged munition autonomously detects and classifies moving targets in poor visibility situations caused by darkness, bad weather, smoke or dust kicked up by helicopters.
Poor weather and battlefield obscurants continue to endanger warfighters as adversaries rely on these conditions to escape attacks. This has established the requirement for an all-weather solution that enhances warfighters' capabilities when visibility is limited. The weapon’s seeker works in three modes to provide maximum operational flexibility:
Millimeter wave radar detects and tracks targets through weather.
Imaging infrared provides enhanced target discrimination.
Semi-active laser enables the weapon to track an airborne laser designator or one on the ground.
The tri-mode seeker shares targeting information among all three modes, enabling StormBreaker to engage fixed or moving targets at any time of day and in all weather conditions. The tri-mode seeker can peer through storm clouds or battlefield dust and debris to engage fixed or moving targets, giving the warfighter a capability that's unaffected by conditions on the ground or in the air. It fuses millimeter-wave radar, uncooled IIR and digital semi-active laser sensors on a single gimbal. The result is a powerful, integrated seeker that seamlessly shares targeting information between all three modes, enabling weapons to engage fixed or moving targets at any time of day and in adverse weather conditions.
StormBreaker's small size enables the use of fewer aircraft to take out the same number of targets as larger weapons that require multiple jets. The weapon can also fly more than 45 miles to strike mobile targets, reducing the amount of time that aircrews spend in harm's way. The multi-effects warhead, developed by General Dynamics-Ordnance and Tactical Systems, offers lethality with minimum collateral damage against a variety of targets, including armoured vehicles. The bomb also features a smart fuse. The guided weapon can engage multiple targets from more than 40nm away. It also has close-in and immediate target engagement capabilities.
This powerful, integrated seeker seamlessly shares targeting information among all three modes, enabling the weapon to engage fixed or moving targets at any time of day and in all-weather conditions. The StormBreaker's tri-mode seeker can also peer through battlefield dust and debris, giving the warfighter a capability that's unaffected by conditions on the ground or in the air.
The weapon can fly more than 45 miles to strike mobile targets, reducing the amount of time that aircrews' spend in harm's way. Its small size enables the use of fewer aircraft to take out the same number of targets as previous, larger weapons that required multiple jets. The StormBreaker's size has broader implications for the warfighter and taxpayers, as it means fewer attacks with less time spent flying dangerous missions. Four SDB II weapons integrated onto the BRU61/A. Aircraft will be able to carry and employ both SDB I and II weapons loaded on separate BRU61/As during the same mission.
F-15E Required Assets Available (RAA) requirements for SDB ll are outlined in the CDD. In September 2018, the SDB II program office evaluated the CDD and determined that SDB II had met all requirements for F-15E RAA. However, a January 2019 review of the weapon's OT performance highlighted the need for a software update to address issues with weapon datalink communications and crypto codes. The timeline of this update necessitated a schedule deviation to RAA declaration from the APB. The previous threshold date for RAA was January 2019. The PEO submitted a Program Deviation Report to the MDA on February 1, 2019. An updated APB is in coordination with a revised RAA objective of August 2019 and threshold of August 2020.
RAA for SDB II Threshold Aircraft F-1 5E is defined as the capability to arm twelve F-15Es with two fully-loaded BRU-61 carriage systems for 1.5 sorties, which equates to 144 weapons. RAA includes associated spares, support equipment (including load crew trainers), initial training, mission planning capability, and verified technical orders. The ACC Commander, or applicable Major Command Commander (if unit is not within ACC) will declare IOC for the Air Force at the first designated SDB II capable wing based on the wing or group commander's recommendations. The weapon configuration delivered to meet the F-1 5E RAA will include fully qualified hardware functionality for all required employment modes.
SDB II will be compatible with carrier operations without degrading other naval operations. Compatibility includes being capable of at least fifty catapult launches and fortynine arrested landings; able to be transported, handled, stored, prepared, uploaded, and downloaded; and capable of operating in EMI, EMC, container immersion/ washdown, saltfog/salt spray, explosive atmosphere, mechanical shock (i.e., near-miss,catapult launches/ arrested landings, and handling shock), acoustic noise, vibration, fluid contamination, corrosive atmosphere, fungus, humidity, ice, and rain environments of aircraft carrier and replenishment ship operations.
SDB II completed a competitive Risk Reduction in October 2009 and entered Milestone B Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) in August 2010. A Fixed Price Incentive Firm EMD contract with five options for annual (FY 2015-FY 2019) Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) lots was awarded in August 2010. SDB II received Milestone C approval to enter LRIP in June 2015 and completed an Acquisition Program Baseline update. Contract options for LRIP Lots 1-5 have been exercised. Developmental Testing and Evaluation (DT&E), including Guided Test Vehicles (GTV), Live Fire (LF) test missions, and a 28-shot Government Confidence Test (GCT) program was completed in May 2018. Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) started June 2018 and will complete May 2019. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the F-15E is scheduled for FY 2019. IOC on the DoN's F-35B and F-35C was scheduled for FY 2021 and FY 2022, respectively; and is based on the F-35 B/C hardware and software modification schedule and completion IOT&E. DoN's first production lot (Lot 4) supports F/A-18E/F IOC.
History of Significant Developments Since Program Initiation
- July 2009 JROC approved the SDB II CDD.
- August 2010 DAE signed an ADM authorizing the program to enter the EMD phase and certified the program pursuant to section 2366b of title 10, U.S. Code.
- October 2010 DAE signed the Milestone (MS) B APB,
- January 2011 Conducted the Critical Design Review (CDR). The Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering concluded that the CDR is complete and the SDB II Program is "well situated to continue into the System Capability and Manufacturing Process Demonstration Phase."
- July 2012 First Guided Test Vehicle (GTV)-1 flight test.
- November 2014 First Live Fire test.
- December 2014 Test, Analyze and Fix (TAAF) testing complete, culminating over 18 months of testing that totaled 2,190 hours. TAAF demonstrated a reliability of 253 hours Mean Time Between Failure which surpassed the 250 hour requirement.
- January 2015 JROC approved use of SDB II CDD in lieu of CPD for production Milestone C. They also formally added the AC-130 as an objective aircraft.
- April 2015 Systems Verification Review.
- June 2015 DAE signed the Milestone C ADM authorizing entrance into LRIP. Lot 1 Production contract award for the first 144 weapons.
- September 2015 DAE signed the Milestone C APB. The APB included updated F-1 5E Required Asset Available dates to account for previous program delays and to allow sufficient time for the remaining Developmental Testing and the upcoming Operational Testing.
Recent Program Developments
The State Department made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Australia for GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II). The estimated cost is $815 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on September 29, 2017.
The Government of Australia requested a possible sale of up to three thousand nine hundred (3,900) GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II), up to thirty (30) GBU-53/B Guided Test Vehicles (GTV), up to sixty (60) GBU-53/B Captive Carry Reliability Trainers (CCRT). Also included in this sale are Weapon Load Crew Trainers (WLCT), Practical Explosive Ordinance Disposal Trainers (PEST), containers, support and ground crew test equipment, site survey, transportation, warranties, repair and return, maintenance, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor representative engineering, logistics, and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated total case value is $815 million.
This sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Western Pacific. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.
The proposed sale of SDB II supports and complements the ongoing sale of the F-35A to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). This capability will strengthen combined operations, particularly air to ground strike missions in all-weather conditions, and increase interoperability between the United States and the RAAF. Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
From January — March 2018 an Integrated Engineering Change Proposal, which includes M-Code (Military Code) Global Positioning System (GPS) and Enhanced Anti-jam Development, was awarded for $101.5M as part of a $450M (ceiling) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract. Software Maintenance Build (SWM) 3 (Operational Flight Program 07.03.07) was released and submitted for flight clearance. SWM 3 is the Operational Flight Program (OFP) for completion of GCT and entrance into OT. Physical Configuration Audit (PCA) on Lot 2 All-up-rounds started with the seeker section build. The program exercised the LRIP Lot 4 contract option for $77.3M. The first FMS Letter of Acceptance was signed by Australia for test assets and three years of support.
The last set of GCT ripple release missions were successfully demonstrated. Two GCT Vehicles (GCTV) were successfully executed demonstrating against a static target and Energy Burn Trajectory (spiral mode). The first Laser Illuminated Attack (LIA) Live Fire (LF) mission was successfully executed against a moving target.
The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy began StormBreaker smart weapon integration activities on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft. Raytheon completed development and integration on the F-15E Strike Eagle in April 2018.
Developmental Test (DT), including Government Confidence Test (GCT) completed in May 2018. Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center began Operational Test (OT) in June 2018 and has executed 35 of 56 mission scenarios. To date, the program has completed 124 weapon drops with 111 guided tests. On November 8, 2018, the Joint Reliability and Maintainability Evaluation Team (JRMET)/Technical Data Scoring Board (TDSB) met and scored successful 17 of 20 OT mission scenarios for a demonstrated free flight reliability of 85%. Total inventory is 598 weapons. LRIP Lot 2 delivery of 250/250 weapons is complete and met all contractual delivery milestones. LRIP Lot 3 September 2018 and were expected to complete by June 2019.
From April — June 2018 an additional 90 Navy weapons were added to the Lot 4 contract for a total of 660 weapons (570 Air Force, 90 Navy) with a contract value of $85.9M. The team completed an Integrated Baseline Review establishing the program baseline as executable. Two GCTVs were successfully executed on a single sortie demonstrating immediate attack capability against moving targets. One Coordinate Attack (CA) and one LIA were successfully executed demonstrating the first use of SWM 3 software in the CA and LIA modes. These were the last two shots required to complete GCT. The Operational Test Readiness Review was successfully conducted and the PEO certified the program to enter OT. OT began in June with of five Normal Attack (NA) mission scenarios.
By June 2018 Raytheon Company's StormBreakerTM weapon had completed all operational test drops, moving it closer to initial operational capability. The StormBreaker tri-mode seeker uses imaging infrared and millimeter wave radar in its normal mode to give pilots the ability to destroy moving targets, even in adverse weather, from standoff ranges. Additionally, the weapon can use its semi-active laser guidance to hit targets.
"All operating modes of StormBreaker have been rigorously tested in operationally relevant scenarios against real-world targets in environments that are similar to actual battlefield conditions," said Kim Ernzen, Raytheon Air Warfare Systems vice president. "With its tri-mode seeker and datalink, this smart weapon will close a capability gap and make adverse weather irrelevant."
In July 2018, the Air Force’s latest guided weapon, the GBU-53B “Stormbreaker” entered operational testing and was 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.”
From July — September 2018 a Request for Proposal was released to Raytheon Missile Systems for Lot 6 production with an option for Lot 7. The first 20 LRIP Lot 2 Production Reliability Incentive Demonstration Effort (PRIDE) assets were delivered to Eglin. LRIP Lot 3 deliveries began this quarter. The first round of F-35 software in the loop testing to include initialization, targeting, and release was successfully completed. Three CA, three NA, and one Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) LIA OT mission scenarios were executed. Two static land LF warhead tests against utility boats were successfully conducted at Eglin Range. Two additional LIA OT mission scenarios and four NA OT scenarios were conducted.
F-15E Required Assets Available (RAA) requirements for SDB II are outlined in the CDD. In September 2018, the SDB II program office evaluated the CDD and determined that SDB II had met all requirements for F-15E RAA. However, a January 2019 review of the weapon's OT performance highlighted the need for a software update to address issues with weapon datalink communications and crypto codes. The timeline of this update necessitated a schedule deviation to RAA declaration from the APB. The previous threshold date for RAA was January 2019. The PEO submitted a Program Deviation Report to the MDA on February 1, 2019. An updated APB is in coordination with a revised RAA objective of August 2019 and threshold of August 2020.
From October — December 2018: LRIP Lot 3 deliveries met contractual requirements for December 2018 and were expected to complete by June 2019. The program executed the LRIP Lot 5 contract option for 1,260 weapons valued at $141M. Test Activity: Four LIA and four NA OT scenarios were conducted. F/A-18E/F wind tunnel testing was completed. The JRMET/TDSB met in November and scored successful 17 of 20 mission scenarios for a demonstrated free flight reliability of 85%. Three were scored as failures (one CA and two NA scenarios). Failure Review Boards (FRB) were convened for the CA (OT-54) and one of the NA (OT-22) failures. has been determined and corrective actions are in work. The other NA failure did not require an FRB and no corrective actions were required. PRIDE captive flight testing started. Four additional NA ripple release scenarios were conducted. Preliminary data indicated all four successful and will be scored at next JRMET/TDSB. In December, two NA JTAC OT scenarios were conducted. Preliminary data indicated both missed their intended target and were under review.
The Air Force’s top weapons development official told Air Force Magazine in July 2019 that Raytheon’s Small Diameter Bomb II, or “StormBreaker,” is ready for primetime despite needing to work out some lingering issues. “Getting them out into the field, right now I think that's the best way for us to wring this out,” Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo said at a recent Air Force Life Cycle Management Center conference. “Get it into the hands of the people using it, figure out what they can do with it that we did not think of, figure out what things are happening in the operational environment that we were not able to replicate and test, and then feed that back into successive upgrades.”
StormBreaker’s ability to communicate with its host aircraft needs more vetting, Genatempo said, and other fixes are already being added into the current production batch, Lot 4. Its radio may not be fixed until Lot 6 or 7, and the service plans to address parts that will be outdated in Lot 8. “Whether or not that is an issue that will prevent fielding, I don't think I can say that. I don't even think Air Combat Command can say that right now,” Genatempo said. “They very well may choose to take an initial delivery of these weapons at the capability they’re at, knowing that one caveat. … It certainly doesn't affect the entire envelope of operation of the weapon. It's a miniature part of one or two different scenarios.”
The slim SDB is a 204-pound munition fitted with a pair of long gliding wings that enable it to soar up to 40 nautical miles, homing in on its target with a trio of seeking methods: infrared imaging, millimeter-wave radar and semi-active laser. The bomb is anticipated to be used on the F/A-18 Hornet, F-15 Eagle and F-35 Lightning II. However, a serious problem with the bomb’s gliding wings delayed production and initial operational capability (IOC) for nearly a year, according to a June 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) , a Congressional watchdog agency. US Air Force spokesperson Capt. Jake Bailey told Defense News the problem lay in the “backup fin storage device” and is caused by “vibration fatigue over long flight hours.”
On 15 June 2020 Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, completed the first guided release of a StormBreaker® smart weapon from an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which will become the second fighter jet to add the weapon when the program reaches initial operational capability later in 2020. The F-15E Eagle is the first platform to add StormBreaker; it's also being integrated on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
"StormBreaker is the only weapon that enables pilots to hit moving targets during bad weather or if dust and smoke are in the area," said Cristy Stagg, StormBreaker program director. "Super Hornet pilots will be able to use poor visibility to their advantage when StormBreaker integration is complete." During the U.S. Navy flight test, the StormBreaker weapon safely separated from the jet and successfully received guidance data from the plane, enabling it to be directed to its target while in flight.
Total planned SDB II procurement is 17,000 weapons; 12,000 for the USAF and 5,000 for the DoN. SDB II total procurement costs in this document only include 10,724 USAF weapons, weapon containers, trainers, reliability captive/test vehicles, tactical to guided test vehicle conversions for Air Combat Command's Weapon System Evaluation Program (WSEP), and SDB II product support. The remaining 1,276 USAF weapons are included in BP20 SDB000. Funds may also be used for cost reduction activities and to resolve production diminishing manufacturing source and material shortage (DMSMS) issues through studies, bridge buys, life-of-type buys, supplier/parts replacement and qualification activities to preserve future production capabilities and capacities.
In the Marvel Comics universe, Stormbreaker is an enchanted axe used by Thor. It was forged from Uru on Nidavellir, and can summon the Bifrost. Stormbreaker was designed by the dwarves of Nidavellir to be the greatest weapon in Asgard's history, designed for their king and capable of summoning the Bifrost Bridge on its own. However, it was never forged, and the dwarves had been rendered all but extinct by Thanos. During the Infinity War, Thor ventured to Nidavellir with Rocket Raccoon and Groot to forge a weapon capable of killing Thanos. Upon arriving, the typically lively forges of Nidavellir were cold and barren, littered with broken parts. Eitri disclosed Thanos' actions to the trio, revealing that his hands had been covered in metal as a result of Thanos' demand for the creation of the Infinity Gauntlet. As Thor needed a weapon, Eitri decided to forge Stormbreaker.
Of all of the symbols in Norse mythology, Thor’s Hammer (Old Norse Mjöllnir, pronounced roughly “MIOL-neer”) is one of the most historically important, and is probably the best known. Thor (whose name goes back to a Proto-Germanic root that means “Thunder”) was the god of the storm, and thunder was perceived as being the sound of his hammer crashing down on his foes. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Old Norse name for his hammer, Mjöllnir, probably meant “Lightning.” In the movie, Stormbreaker is basically an upgraded version of Mjolnir.
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