Raytheon completed Lot 1 production of the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II, aka GBU-53), a new weapon that will give fighter pilots the ability to destroy moving targets at any time and in all-weather conditions, according to the company. The US Air Force (USAF) contracted Raytheon to produce Lots 2 and 3.

The SDB II bomb is a gliding precision weapon with a tri-mode seeker that works in three modes to provide maximum operational flexibility, i.e. to find its targets: millimetre wave 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. The weapon's two-way datalink allows it to receive in-flight target updates. Once fielded, SDB II will enable pilots to engage more targets at ranges greater than 40mi using fewer aircraft.

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 SDB II bomb'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.

"SDB II does much more than hit GPS coordinates; it detects, classifies and engages targets," Mike Jarrett, Raytheon Air Warfare Systems Vice President, explained. "When it is integrated on the F-35A, this weapon will also help the world's most advanced fighter jet reach entirely new targets."

Raytheon is producing SDB II bombs at the company's fully-automated manufacturing facility in Tucson, AZ/USA, and the programme is nearing completion of developmental testing. The SDB II bomb is a Raytheon programme for the USAF to provide, "an all-weather solution that enhances warfighters' capabilities when visibility is limited," according to the company.

Raytheon, the USAF and US Navy (USN) have begun SDB II bomb integration activities on the F-35, F/A-18E/F and F-15E aircraft (USAF and USN begun integration on F-35 and F/A-18E/F Super HORNET; Raytheon on F-15E Strike EAGLE). The weapon's 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 SDB II bomb's size has broader implications for the soldier and taxpayers, as it means fewer attacks with less time spent flying dangerous missions.




Locked and loaded, the F-15E fighter aircraft can carry seven groups of four SDB II bombs, for a total of 28 weapons. (Photo: Raytheon)

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