Reset GBU-53 / B from F-15E fighter
Currently, Raytheon Missiles & Defense and the Pentagon are working on integrating the promising GBU-53 / B StormBreaker guided bomb into the weapon systems of various types of aircraft. Already this year new weapon reaches the initial operational readiness (IOC) stage on one of the carriers. Then commissioning with other aircraft is expected.
At the test stage
The development of the future GBU-53 / B StormBreaker bomb (until 2018 the name Small Diameter Bomb II - SDB II was used) started back in 2006 and continued until the beginning of the next decade. After that, the test phase began with flights and dumping from different carriers. Some of these works have already been completed, but others are ongoing.
The first test discharge of SDB II for training purposes took place on July 17, 2012 over the White Sands training ground. The F-15E Strike Eagle booster plane detected the target, transmitted the necessary data to the bomb, and performed a reset. The product used all of its guidance and hit the target with a direct hit.
By the end of 2012, work began on the introduction of GBU-53 / B in the ammunition of F-35 Lightning II fighters of all modifications. During the first tests, it was found that the bomb was placed in the internal cargo compartment of such an aircraft and was able to leave it without any problems. However, flight tests with discharge were not carried out due to the unavailability of weapon control systems.
tests on the F-16 plane
In 2013-15 with the help of F-15E and F-16 aircraft, tests were carried out with the defeat of various targets, with known and unknown coordinates, stationary and moving, etc. Not all discharges were successful, but trials were generally considered successful. According to the results of this phase of work, the first order for small-scale production appeared.
Initial operational readiness
To date, development work on the GBU-53 / B StormBreaker has been completed, the last stages of preparation for the operation of the bomb in the troops are being carried out. At the same time, there are certain problems and delays, due to which the timing of achieving initial operational readiness is again shifted to the right.
In mid-2018, the development company announced the start of experimental military operation of the new bomb on F-15E aircraft. They were going to pass this stage by the fall of 2019 and then reach the IOC. However, last year unforeseen problems were identified with individual elements of the bomb and related equipment, which took time to fix. Then, the schedule had to be revised due to the pandemic and related restrictions.
According to recent reports, the GBU-53 / B as part of the F-15E weapons will enter the IOC stage in the second half of this year. More precise dates are not yet called. The deadlines for completion of the F-16 are also not specified. This is likely to happen shortly after completing current Strike Eagle events.
Suspension of bombs on the holder BRU-61 / A
The F-15E can use the new type of bombs with the BRU-61 / A holders, each of which holds four items. The maximum ammunition load is 28 bombs, but this can adversely affect the composition of other weapons and the corresponding combat capabilities.
In the interests of the fleet
On June 15, 2020, a new test event was held aimed at introducing a promising deck bomb aviation Navy. At the unnamed training ground, the first discharge of the product from the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet fighter took place, followed by a controlled flight and guidance to the training target.
It is reported that the carrier aircraft dropped the bomb and then transmitted the target data to it. According to them, the product carried out preliminary guidance, then detected and hit the specified object. The possibility of effective interaction between the carrier and the bomb has been successfully confirmed.
In the near future, other necessary measures will be taken to introduce the GBU-53 / B into the ammunition of carrier-based fighters. According to current plans, the F / A-18E / F will become the second combat carrier of a promising bomb in the US armed forces - and so far the only one in the Navy.
The first tests of a GBU-53 / B product with an F-35 aircraft took place in 2012, but such a strike system has not yet reached full-fledged tests or introduction into the troops. Moreover, such work is being postponed, and IOC on F-35 fighters is expected only by the mid-twenties.
To use StormBreaker bombs, F-35 aircraft need to update their weapons control software. The necessary software will appear as part of the expected modernization of Block 4, which they are going to launch in the near future. Only after that will it be possible to begin full-fledged tests. At the next stages, the complex in the form of F-35 and GBU-53 / B will be mastered by the Air Force, Navy and ILC.
The GBU-53 / B bomb will be able to carry F-35 fighters of all three modifications. It is possible to transport such products in the internal compartments and on the external sling. Cargo bays can accommodate up to eight bombs, incl. along with other weapons. Using beam holders under the wing, up to 16 bombs are installed.
Bombs for export
As part of the fifth generation of fighter jets, export deliveries are planned. The first customer could be the UK. In 2016, the Royal Navy chose weapons for its future F-35Bs. A similar contest was held by the FAC, who were about to rearm the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft. In both cases, the GBU-53 / B bomb lost to the MBDA SPEAR 3 missile due to its lower flight performance.
In the same 2016, information appeared about the imminent signing of the US-South Korean contract. The Air Force of the Republic of Korea intends to strengthen the strike capabilities of F-15K aircraft using StormBraker products.
In 2017, negotiations began with Australia. This country plans to purchase 3900 bombs for arming F-35A fighters. Apparently, the implementation of two export contracts will begin in the near future, but not earlier than the start of supplies to the US armed forces.
GBU-53 / B StormBreaker is a compact small-caliber guided bomb designed to hit small-sized stationary and moving targets with known coordinates or with approach detection. When developing these weapons, special measures were taken aimed at increasing the likelihood of a successful solution to the combat mission.
The bomb is made in a large elongation housing with a variable cross section. The maximum diameter is less than 180 mm, length 1,76 m, weight 93 kg. There are folding wings in flight and a stabilizer. The head of the hull is given under the homing head, the tail compartment accommodates steering cars. Between them is a high-explosive fragmentation warhead weighing 48 kg.
It is stated that StormBreaker "will change the rules of the game": in one of its combat modes, an air bomb will be able to plan up to a target area up to 45 miles (over 72 kilometers), and then find and attack targets without human intervention. She will be able to hit moving targets, for example, Tanks, even in bad weather, with heavy smoke or in total darkness.
StormBreaker is equipped with an original three-component homing head, which increases the likelihood of a successful capture and destruction of the target. The GOS includes an active radar component of the millimeter range, an infrared system and a semi-active laser unit. Using all these means, the bomb is capable of independently or with the help of a gunner to find ground objects in any weather conditions and at any time of the day.
The sequential or simultaneous use of three guidance systems increases the likelihood of hitting a target and, as a result, affects the overall effectiveness of the combat use of tactical aircraft. It was reported that during the tests, 90% of the GBU-53 / B bombs successfully completed their tasks.
The bomb does not have its own engine, but has very high range indicators. Attack of a stationary target can be carried out from a range of up to 110 km. Damage to a moving object requires maneuvering, which leads to the expenditure of kinetic energy and a reduction in maximum range to 72 km. In both cases, the carrier aircraft may remain outside the zone of destruction of enemy air defense.
Together with the promising aerial bomb GBU-53 / B StormBreaker, the Air Force and the US Navy want to get a number of new features. Due to the successful combination of components and characteristics, such a weapon will be able to solve a wide range of problems and will be a good addition to other aviation weapons.
Successful completion of the project offers Raytheon obvious financial benefits. So, the 2015 contract for small-scale production provided for the supply of 144 bombs worth $ 31 million. In a large series, the cost of the product is planned to be reduced to 110-120 thousand dollars, but this is offset by the volume of the contract. Negotiations are underway on export agreements.
However, all the benefits will be fully achieved only after the launch of the full-scale series and the achievement of full operational readiness. The first step in this direction will be made this year - the FOC-15E and possibly F / A-18E / F fighters reached the IOC stage.