The Navy and Raytheon Technologies [RTX] conducted two StormBreaker smart weapon guided test vehicle releases from an F-35B, allowing it to move to the next phase of weapon capability testing, the company said on Sept. 19.
The two StormBreakers were deployed within 30 minutes of each other, successfully released at 0.9 Mach and performed required flight behaviors. Raytheon underscored this was the fastest release of the weapon so far from an F-35.
StormBreaker is another name for the 204-pound GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II (SDM II). Raytheon noted it includes a multimode seeker and multi-effects warheads that allow “highly flexible and effective target engagement against moving and stationary targets more than 45 miles away.”
Raytheon builds the SDM II based out of its Tucson, Ariz., facility.
It said this test of two releases finished a seven-shot rate capture series, which allows the F-35B test program to move on to the weapon capability testing phase next.
Last year, the Navy and Raytheon conducted the first StormBreaker SDB II weapon drop from an F-35B at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. (Defense Daily, Nov. 29, 2021).
At the time, Raytheon said the F-35B and StormBreaker were set to continue developmental testing then operational testing to confirm capability and safety. The Navy is expected to declare Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for the weapon with the F-35B after operational testing is completed.
The Navy earlier conducted the first guided release of StormBreaker from an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in 2020 (Defense Daily, June 16, 2020).
In 2020 the Air Force approved StormBreaker for use on its F-15E Strike Eagles and the company said all F-35 variants were planned to be approved to carry the weapon by 2023, a year later than planned due to COVID-19 pandemic delays (Defense Daily, Oct. 14, 2020).
Raytheon noted the Air Force declared Initial Operating Capability (IOC) of the StormBreaker on the F-15E earlier this year. The company said the weapon is set to expand to more manned and unmanned platforms, like the aforementioned Super Hornet.
According to the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request documents, IOC of the StormBreaker SDB II on Super Hornets is planned for FY ‘23 while the F-35 IOC is planned for FY ‘25.
The documents said the total planned procurement of SDB II is 26,610 weapons divided into 21,610 for the Air Force and 5,000 for the Department of the Navy.
The Navy Department is seeking 481 bombs in FY ‘23 for over $108 million, at a cost of about $225,000 per bomb.
“No other fielded air-to-surface weapon can accomplish what StormBreaker can against complex targets in contested environments,” Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, said in a statement.
“Tests like these continue the progress on integrating StormBreaker into fifth generation platforms in an effort to get this much needed capability to U.S. and allied warfighters as soon as possible,” he added.