The U.S. Air Force, in partnership with Raytheon Missiles & Defense, a Raytheon Technologies business, dropped 10 StormBreaker smart weapons from F-15E Strike Eagles during their March and August 2021 Weapons System Evaluation Program, an air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons evaluation. During the March evaluation, six GBU-53/B StormBreakers destroyed static and moving targets, with the Air Force declaring that the weapon “performed as expected and on target using the normal mode and net enabled features.”
In August, F-15Es dropped four GBU-53/B StormBreakers in succession – in less than 30 minutes – as part of tactics development. This was the first time an operational F-15E unit has integrated into StormBreaker testing. These results will not only support the employment of Stormbreaker by the U.S Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagles, but the lessons learned will inform future capabilities for the U.S. Navy with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-35B Lightning II for the U.S. Marine Corps.
“These tests are critical to paving the way for StormBreaker’s employment by the Combat Air Forces,” said Alison Howlett, program director for StormBreaker at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. “By stress-testing the weapon in an operational environment, we are even more confident in the weapon’s ability to strike targets in difficult conditions.”
The GBU-53/B StormBreaker, previously known as the Small Diameter Bomb II, is an American air-launched, precision-guided glide bomb. Development was started in 2006 for a 250 pounds (113 kg) class bomb that can identify and strike mobile targets from standoff distances in all weather conditions. It will be integrated on the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet and F-35 Lightning fighters. Its first flight was announced on May 1, 2009. A contract to start low-rate production LRIP was awarded to Raytheon in June 2015.
StormBreaker’s reach is long and its punch powerful—it can hit moving, armored targets from more than 40 miles away—but what really sets the guided weapon apart is its seeker. Its multimode seeker includes a millimeter-wave radar to “see” targets in adverse weather, imaging infrared for target discrimination and semi-active laser to track an airborne laser or one on the ground. The laser works in addition to or with GPS and inertial navigation system guidance.
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