Air Force Tests Small Diameter Bomb II to Hit Moving Targets

SDB IIFARNBOROUGH, England — Raytheon and the U.S. Air Force are testing a new, high-tech air-dropped bomb that can pinpoint targets from long distances, destroy stationary or moving targets and change course in flight using a two-way data link, officials said at the Farnborough International Airshow.

The Small Diameter Bomb II represents a technological departure from previously fielded precision-guided air-dropped weapons because of its ability to track and hit moving targets from long distances.

Most of the testing of the SBD II thus far has been on an Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter jet, however the weapon has also been fitted and tested on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Engineers are also working on plans to integrate the bomb onto the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 as well, Raytheon officials said.

GPS and laser-guided weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions have been around for decades, however, they have primarily been designed for use against fixed or stationary targets.

A key part of the SDB II is a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker — a guidance system which can direct the weapon using millimeter wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared guidance and semi-active laser technology.

“The really transformational thing about this product is the fact that our seeker, our tri-mode seeker, allows us to prosecute both those moving and stationary targets from standoff distances to exceed 40 nautical miles both on land and at sea,” said Mike Jarrett, vice president, air warfare systems, Raytheon.

A tri-mode seeker provides a range of guidance and targeting options typically not used together in one system. Millimeter wave radar gives the weapon an ability to navigate through adverse weather, conditions in which other guidance systems might encounter problems reaching or pinpointing targets.

Imagining infrared guidance allows the weapon to track and hone in on heat signatures such as the temperature of an enemy vehicle. With semi-active laser technology, the weapon can be guided to an exact point using a laser designator or laser illuminator coming from the air or the ground.

Also, the SBD II brings a new ability to track targets in flight through use of a two-way Link 16 and UHF data link, Raytheon officials said.

The Pentagon has already invested more than $700 million into SBD II development, Raytheon officials said.

Raytheon engineers and SDB II program managers are now working on what’s called the Engineering Manufacturing and Development phase and are poised to enter system-level qualifications.  Over the next several months, SDB II development will go through what’s called system verification reviews wherein test results and aircraft integration are carefully analyzed.

Low Rate Initial Production of the bomb is slated for some time next year, Jarrett added.

Raytheon is also interested in acquiring international customers for the weapon, a strategy which can build allied or partner capacity while increasing production quantities and lowering costs.

“This requires a significant cooperation from the Air Force (U.S.). SDB II’s entry into the international market has strong interest from all interested parties.  It ensures a kill where it needs to be done while minimizing collateral damage,” said Rico Rodriguez, director of strategy for air warfare systems, Raytheon.

Another cost-lowering strategy involves the possibility of using the promising tri-mode seeker technology for more weapons, Jarrett explained.

“We’re trying to work this as a modification in the sense that we can leverage it across a broader portfolio of programs. That is a fantastic thing to do from the standpoint of trying to drive cost out of the system and really put forward the affordability approach,” he added.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Marine Air

    I’m all about finding new ways to kill things and break shit, but what does this bring that a GBU-54 doesn’t already?

    • William_C1

      It’s smaller at 210 pounds or so (you can fit 8 in the F-35 in addition to 2 air-to-air missiles), good glide range, and the addition of IIR and MMW radar guidance if the target can’t be laser designated or if there are multiple targets to be hit simultaneously.

      Like the UK’s Brimstone this will often be used for “plinking” individual vehicles and targets were you don’t necessarily need a larger bomb.

  • guest

    The B-52 can carry 51 500lb MK82 dumb bombs. It conceivably be re-configured to carry 102 SBD II’s. Think of the havoc that could be rained down upon a Chinese armor column by one or two of these so configured.

  • WebFoot Logger

    The B-523 is nice for big targets . . . but it’s a nice big target itself, and not much good against dispersed targets such as individual trucks or tanks.

    • tmb2

      That’s the whole point of this bomb.

  • Ben

    I see a lot about of how much money these things will save, but they seem awfully packed full of tech to be anything but incredibly expensive.. Not to mention the $700mil in development.

    Glad we have them but please, let’s be honest here. They’re probably not going to save us a dime in the long run.

  • anthony

    In these times its better to use bigger bombs, The B-52 should be in use again to show we mean bisnus..

  • Jay Gibbs

    The purpose of this weapon, and the original SDB, had NOTHING to do with the B-52…. Geez. It’s a very small, lightweight, precision-guided bomb, that can attack pinpoint targets at stand-off range, in all weather. A single fighter can strike 3-4 times the number of targets per sortie than could be hit with JDAMs and iron bombs. It’s efficient, it’s battle-proven, it’s cost effective. We kill more targets, we kill less civilians, our pilots are more likely to come home. There’s nothing to complain about here.

    • quest

      US military’s record of killing civilians has nothing to do with larger diameter bombs. It’s a matter of policy, or willful disregard for human lives, notwithstanding official and media propaganda to the contrary.

      • Ben

        Lol, so if Russia were hunting Al Qaeda in America and they intentionally bombed your entire family because a suspected insurgent was standing near them, you’d be totally cool with that.

        Yeah, probably not.

        • Taliban

          The Russians could care less if your family was killed Ben war is war so long as they killed the objective a bigger blast killing civilians eliminating potential future retaliation including you. Do you honestly think that a nation at war would care about individual targeting Get real!

          • Ben

            … You completely missed the point.

            Otherwise, “The Russians *couldn’t* care less…” Sorry, certain bad grammar just peeves me.

      • Musson

        That is the Oldest Murder defense in the State of Texas: the sonofabitch needed killin’.

      • David

        You are so dense.

        Bomb A has a kill radius of 1000 feet

        Bomb B has a kill radius of 200 feet

        Which bomb is more likely to inflict collateral damage and kill civilians when it hits its target?

        The US military actually cares more about our enemies’ civilians more so then they do. Which is why we use precision weapons and don’t just carpet bomb entire cities like in WWII.

  • Musson

    Could it be launched from a cheap COIN aircraft?

    • Curt

      Sure, for instance the existing SDB can be launched from an AT-6, no reason this one couldn’t be integrated as well. It should be a pretty simple setup integration on any aircraft, but the datalink will take some additional equipment on the plane.

  • The Military needs to get off the………………..Teener, tinier, ever smaller bombs. If you miss a tank by 20′, you’ll only scratch the paint with a SDB.

    • Ben

      I think the point of making bombs smaller and smarter is to NOT miss the target by 20′

      • William_C1

        Exactly, this thing will probably be as accurate as a Hellfire but with at least twice the amount of explosive content. This will be in some respects a lot like the UK’s Brimstone which proved very useful over Libya.

        SDB II is actually probably one of the reasons the the JAGM program has become such a low priority, the USAF doesn’t see the need for it.

  • David

    Which is why is it guided. How does that fact escape you?