Sunday, July 21, 2024

U.S. Air Force tests StormBreaker smart weapon on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

Raytheon Missiles & Defense, the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force have begun the process of integrating the StormBreaker smart weapon on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. According to Raytheon, StormBreaker’s first-ever drop test from an F-35 took place this year to test the communication link between the weapon and a secondary aircraft.

The StormBreaker smart weapon, previously known as the Small Diameter Bomb II, is an American air-launched, precision-guided glide bomb. It weighs just over 200 pounds (93 kg), and up to 20 can fit on fighter jets like the F-15E Strike Eagle. But their warheads, equipped with shape charge jets, fragmentation and blast charge effects, and an option for a delayed smart fuze, are powerful enough to defeat tanks.

Deployed on the F-15E, the StormBreaker smart weapon has a tri-mode seeker – that uses imaging infrared and millimeter-wave radar – to see through fog, smoke, and rain. It can also use data from semi-active laser or GPS-based guidance systems to identify its target. The system glides over 45 miles (72 km) to strike both fixed or moving targets on land or at sea. It’s engineered with the flexibility to engage a variety of threats in any environment.

Users also have the option of a semi-autonomous mode, where the weapon can use the data to sort and prioritize potential targets before hitting them. Thanks to StormBreaker’s networking capabilities, one platform could launch it but hand off controls to another to complete the mission, Raytheon claims.

To verify system performance, the team uses an integrated flight simulation, or IFS, and literally runs thousands of iterations in tandem with the Air Force using data from testing to continuously improve simulation accuracy.

Last year, the U.S. Air Force cleared the StormBreaker for use in F-15s. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will be the second fighter jet to add the weapon when it reaches initial operating capability.