The Navy and Raytheon Technologies [RTX] conducted the first weapon drop of the StormBreaker bomb from an F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, the company said Monday.
During this test based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., an F-35B from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron-23 (VX-23) used the bomb as a guided munition, just like they would use in combat from mission planning to weapon release. The company did not immediately disclose when the test occurred.
After the aircraft released the weapon, a nearby F/A-18E/F Super Hornet monitored the fly-out of the weapon over a common network. F/A-18E/F kept monitoring the weapon until it successfully impacted a target, demonstrating a successful network connectivity capability.
StormBreaker is the name for the 204-pound GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II, which advances over a previous model with a tri-mode seeker that uses imaging infrared, millimeter wave and semi-active laser to defeat moving targets up to 45 miles away regardless of adverse weather.
Raytheon said the F-35B and StormBreaker are due to continue developmental testing followed by operational testing to confirm capability and safety. The Navy is expected to declare initial operating capability for the F-35B using the StormBreaker after operational testing finishes.
“The weapon’s operational flexibility increases the F-35’s capability and capacity, and it helps limit the time our warfighters spend in harm’s way. StormBreaker allows pilots to hit moving targets in adverse weather conditions, which our adversaries have relied on in the past to avoid detection,” Alison Howlett, StormBreaker program director at Raytheon Missiles and Defense, said in a statement.
Last year, the Navy conducted the first guided release of the StormBreaker from the Super Hornet (Defense Daily, June 16, 2020).
Also last year, the Air Force cleared the StormBreaker for use by the Air Force on F-15E Strike Eagles. At the time, the company said all F-35 variants are planned to be approved to carry StormBreaker by 2023, a year later than previously planned after the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to production delays (Defense Daily, Oct. 14, 2020).