The government of Norway has confirmed its intention to procure Raytheon Missiles & Defense’s StormBreaker® smart weapon from the U.S. Air Force. Preparations are now underway to integrate the network-enabled weapon into the capabilities of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The GBU-53/B StormBreaker, previously known as the Small Diameter Bomb II, is an American air-launched, precision-guided glide bomb.
The StormBreaker smart weapon gives operators an upper hand in combat by hitting stationary and moving targets in some of the worst weather conditions. The network-enabled munition autonomously detects and classifies targets in poor visibility situations caused by darkness, bad weather, smoke or dust.
“StormBreaker delivers a unique combination of power, precision and operational flexibility to the joint and allied fight,” said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power for Raytheon Missiles & Defense.
“We see StormBreaker as an essential component in achieving the full operational capability of our F-35 fleet,” said Brig. Gen. Sigurd Fongen, head of the F-35 project office, Norwegian Defence Staff. “The weapon will bring significant capability against stationary and moving targets at stand-off ranges, further enhancing the Norwegian Air Force’s ability to maintain national and regional security alongside our allies.”
The GBU-53/B StormBreakeris a fielded munition on the U.S. Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle, and the weapon has performed various live drops and weapons evaluations since. The U.S. Navy will declare initial operating capability on the Super Hornet after operational testing concludes. Integration activities are also underway on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as well as additional manned and unmanned platforms.
The F-35 will not be able to operate the bomb until the aircraft receives the Block 4 software package in 2022. The SDB II bomb rack originally did not fit inside the smaller F-35B weapons bay. A modification will be provided to coincide with the software package. An F-35 can carry 24 total bombs, 8 internally and 16 externally.
The bomb can use GPS/INS to guide itself into the general vicinity of a moving target during the initial search phase, with course correction updates provided using a Link 16 over UHF data link. The bomb has three modes of target acquisition: millimeter-wave radar, infrared homing using an uncooled imaging seeker, and semi-active laser homing.
The weapon is capable of fusing the information from the sensors to classify the target and can prioritize certain types of targets as desired when used in semi-autonomous mode. The shaped charge warhead in the bomb has both blast and fragmentation effects, which makes it effective against infantry, armor (including MBTs), unhardened structures and buildings, as well as patrol craft sized boats and other soft targets.