The F/A-18 Super Hornet is the first US Navy aircraft to get GBU-53/B StormBreaker SDB II smart weapon

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is the first US Navy aircraft to get GBU-53/B StormBreaker SDB II smart weapon

By Dario Leone
Nov 7 2023
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F/A-18 Super Hornet to carry GBU-53/B StormBreaker SDB II

The US Navy is set to field the GBU-53/B StormBreaker Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) on the F/A-18 Super Hornet after declaring Early Operational Capability (EOC) in October.

The F/A-18E/F is the Navy’s first platform to carry the SDB II, giving the aircraft the capability to hit moving targets in harsh weather and address targets in dynamic scenarios. Building off the knowledge of F-15E fielding, Raytheon was able to reduce the number of required flight tests, saving time and resources to provide this capability to the US Navy.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is the first US Navy aircraft to get GBU-53/B StormBreaker SDB II smart weapon
An F/A-18 carries the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II during testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. SDB II achieved early operational capability on the F/A-18 in October 2023.

“The Navy and Air Force team, along with the test community and fleet stakeholders, worked relentlessly to expedite the fielding of this weapon,” said Tyler Alt, Navy SDB-II program manager, in a NAVAIR news release. “This weapon will give our warfighters a much-needed capability and provide the basis for future network enabled weapons.”

he team will complete two additional operational test events before achieving Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2024.

StormBreaker SDB II
GBU-53/B StormBreaker SDB II

GBU-53/B StormBreaker SDB II unprecedented capabilities

“The weapon’s unprecedented capabilities provide aviators with the ability to strike targets in difficult and dynamic scenarios,” said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power at Raytheon, in a company news release. “StormBreaker is a prime example of how we are using digital technologies to deliver advanced air dominance weapons, ensuring the continued relevance of fourth-generation aircraft.”

SDB II is an air-launched, precision-strike standoff weapon that enables the warfighter to defeat moving and fixed targets. It can operate in adverse weather conditions through its tri-mode seeker that employs infrared and millimeter wave radar to see through fog, smoke and rain.

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StormBreaker features an innovative multimode seeker that guides the weapon by using an imaging infrared camera, millimeter-wave radar, and semi-active laser in addition to, or with, GPS and inertial navigation system guidance.

StormBreaker’s small size lets fewer aircraft address the same number of targets compared to larger weapons that require multiple jets. It can also fly more than 40 miles to strike moving land and maritime targets, reducing the amount of time that aircrews spend in harm’s way.

SDB II current and future platforms

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is the first US Navy aircraft to get GBU-53/B StormBreaker SDB II smart weapon
An F/A-18 conducts testing with the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

The weapon has the capability to receive updated target coordinates mid-flight via two-way datalink communications. Using these network options, SDB II allows airborne or ground controllers the ability to send in-flight target updates.

SDB II is a Joint-Interest, Air Force Lead program and is currently fielded on the US Air Force’s F-15E aircraft (the USAF declared Initial Operating Capability for StormBreaker on the F-15E Strike Eagle in 2022). SDB II will also be compatible and fielded on F-16C/D and F-35A/B/C aircraft.

Photo credit: US Navy, Raytheon

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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