The Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) program reached a major milestone on Sep. 23, 2020 when the weapon was approved for F-15E Strike Eagle operational flights.
“The SDB II StormBreaker is ready for operational use after undergoing extensive development and flight testing,” said Col. Jason Rusco, SDB II program manager and Miniature Munitions Division senior materiel leader. “The fielding milestone is the culmination of years of incredible work conducted by our joint military and industry teams. This capability is unmatched and is a game-changer for national defense.”
SBD II is a joint-interest Air Force and Navy major acquisition program. The Armament Directorate’s Miniature Munitions Division at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) serves as the acquisition lead in partnership with Raytheon Missiles and Defense.
After software faults and other problems that repeatedly delayed the program for years, the F-15E can now carry the SDB II in combat.
Eleven failures were identified in operational testing, which concluded in May 2019. Eight of those issues were related to software, two were hardware-related, and one involved an anomaly with the guidance component, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
According to Air Force Magazine, work halted in 2019 after the military found several safety deficiencies, including concerns that the bomb’s fins could inadvertently deploy before launch and damage the aircraft carrying it. That could disproportionately affect the F-35, which will internally carry the weapon.
The decision to green-light SDB II for combat was delayed for about a year while Raytheon retrofitted the nearly 600 bombs that were already delivered.
The smart weapon features a multi-mode seeker that guides the bomb by infrared, millimeter wave radar and semi-active laser in addition to GPS and inertial navigation system guidance.
It’s small size also enables an increased payload per mission requiring fewer aircraft for the same number of targets compared to larger weapons that require multiple aircraft. It can also fly more than 40 miles to strike mobile targets, reducing the amount of time aircrews spend in harm’s way.
“SDB II’s ability to attack moving targets, at range in adverse weather, delivers a significant advantage to our warfighter’s arsenal. Fielding this weapon is a momentous accomplishment for everyone involved,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer.
Eglin units flew a combination of 138 developmental and operational flight tests to help successfully achieve the milestone. The 96th Test Wing’s 40th Flight Test Squadron and the 780th Test Squadron performed the developmental tests. The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Det. 2 and the 53rd Wing’s 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron completed the operational tests.
Photo credit: Raytheon Missiles and Defense
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