The Pentagon has recently awarded Raytheon Technologies a $320 million contract to produce and deliver 1,500 StormBreaker smart bombs, which are air-to-surface, network-enabled weapons that can engage moving targets in all weather conditions using its multi-effects warhead and tri-mode seeker.
The StormBreaker smart bomb is one of the newest and most advanced munitions in the U.S. military’s arsenal, and it is expected to enhance the capabilities of the F-15E, F-35B, and F/A-18E/F aircraft that will carry it.
The StormBreaker smart bomb, also known as the GBU-53/B, is a guided, gliding precision munition that weighs about 250 pounds and has a range of over 40 miles. It can be launched from high altitudes and speeds, and it can fly autonomously to its target using GPS and inertial navigation system (INS) guidance. The bomb also has a tri-mode seeker that works in three modes to provide maximum operational flexibility:
- Millimeter wave radar: detects and tracks targets through weather, such as clouds, rain, fog or dust.
- Imaging infrared: provides enhanced target discrimination and recognition by capturing thermal signatures of targets and background.
- Semi-active laser: allows the bomb to lock on to a laser spot designated by an aircraft or ground forces.
The bomb also has a multi-effects warhead that can penetrate hard targets or create blast and fragmentation effects for soft targets. The warhead can be set to detonate on impact, in the air or after penetration.
The StormBreaker smart bomb offers several advantages over other munitions, such as:
- Ability to hit moving targets: The bomb can track and engage targets that are moving at up to 70 mph, such as vehicles, boats or trains.
- Ability to operate in adverse weather conditions: The bomb can function in low-visibility situations caused by darkness, bad weather, smoke or dust kicked up by helicopters.
- Ability to reduce collateral damage: The bomb can discriminate between targets and non-targets using its seeker modes and warhead settings, minimizing the risk of harming civilians or friendly forces.
- Ability to increase survivability: The bomb can be launched from standoff distances and altitudes, reducing the exposure of the aircraft and crew to enemy fire.
The StormBreaker smart bomb will be fielded on three platforms: the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-35B Lightning II and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The F-15E has already been certified to carry the bomb since 2020, while testing is underway for the F-35B and F/A-18E/F. Between the three platforms, the Storm Breaker smart bomb has had hundreds of successful operational test shots to date.
The StormBreaker smart bomb will provide these platforms with a new capability to strike moving targets in all weather conditions with precision and accuracy. The bomb will also complement other weapons in their inventory, such as the AMRAAM missile for air-to-air combat, the Paveway bomb for fixed targets and the Tomahawk cruise missile for long-range strikes.
The Pentagon’s order of 1500 StormBreaker smart bombs reflects its confidence in this weapon system and its commitment to ensuring that the U.S. military has the next-level munitions it needs to safely and successfully accomplish its missions.