Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, announced on Monday that it executed the first guided release of a StormBreaker smart bomb from an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
Super Hornet successfully launched a Stormbreaker glide bomb, a major step towards initial operational capability later this year. Stormbreaker is the Pentagon’s most advanced smart bomb to date, capable of seeking out and destroying moving targets and flying in the night and adverse weather conditions.
GBU-53/B Stormbreaker is a glide bomb designed to attack moving targets in all weather conditions. The bomb is capable of gliding up to 45 miles using wings and tail fins that deploy after launch. Stormbreaker then homes in on a target illuminated by a laser, with illumination provided by a second aircraft or troops on the ground. A millimeter-wave radar seeker allows the bomb to see through clouds, fog, and smoke, while an imaging infrared sensor gives Stormbreaker the ability to distinguish between the target and something that merely looks like a target.
Stormbreaker was developed from the original Small Diameter Bomb, which is too bulky to fit in the internal weapons bays of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Mounting a weapon on the external rails of a stealth fighter will negate the plane’s radar-evading qualities, so such planes must carry all of their ordnance internally. Raytheon took the original weapon concept, slimmed the bomb down, and added the tri-mode seeker.
The new StormBreaker smart weapon, commonly known as a smart tank hunter, is a winged munition autonomously detects and classifies moving targets in poor visibility situations caused by darkness, bad weather, smoke or dust kicked up by helicopters.
“StormBreaker is the only weapon that enables pilots to hit moving targets during bad weather or if dust and smoke are in the area,” said Cristy Stagg, StormBreaker program director. “Super Hornet pilots will be able to use poor visibility to their advantage when StormBreaker integration is complete.”
During the U.S. Navy flight test, StormBreaker safely separated from the jet and successfully received guidance data from the plane, enabling it to be directed to its target while in flight.
StormBreaker features a revolutionary tri-mode seeker that uses imaging infrared and millimeter wave radar in its normal mode. The weapon can also deploy its semi-active laser or GPS guidance to hit targets.
StormBreaker’s small size enables the use of fewer aircraft to take out the same number of targets as larger weapons that require multiple jets. The weapon can also fly more than 45 miles to strike mobile targets, reducing the amount of time that aircrews spend in harm’s way.
The F-15E Eagle is the first platform to add StormBreaker; it’s also being integrated on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.