Big Bang, Small Space: The USA’s “Focused Lethality Munitions”
Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb Phase I (SDB-I) is a specially shaped 250-pound bomb. Its thin and pointed shape gives it extra punch against buildings and hardened targets, its pop-out wings give it very good glide range, and its JDAM-like GPS/INS guidance kit gives it precision. Raytheon’s GBU-53 SDB-II bombs added the ability to strike moving targets.
While there have been true stories of “cement bombs” designed to lower collateral damage, “Focused Lethality Munitions” take a higher-tech tack. This Small Diameter Bomb variant changes the bomb’s casing and internal fill, in order to produce more devastating effects within a smaller area. A carbon-fiber bomb body disintegrates instead of fragmenting, which adds explosive force nearby but largely removes shrapnel issues beyond. Inside, metal particles turn the explosive material into short-range projectiles. The result is especially useful in urban areas, in situations where friendly elements are close to the impact zone, and in campaigns fought using contemporary American counter-insurgency doctrine. Publicly-announced orders have included:
Note that the size of these orders mean that it’s quite possible to have orders that fall below the $5 million threshold for mandatory public announcements.
Dec 19/13: Done. Boeing announces that they’ve delivered their 500th and final Focused Lethality Munition (FLM) to the USAF, 100% on time and on cost. Boeing adds that:
“The Air Force has dropped 23 FLMs in combat operations and has a 23 for 23 mission-success rate.”
April 17/12: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO receives a $9.4 million firm-fixed-price contract to “focused lethality munition” variants of the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bomb Phase I. The AAC/EBMK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages this contract (FA8672-12-C-0039).
March 10/10: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO receives an $8.8 million contract to for 100 “focused lethality munition” variants of the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bomb Phase I. At this time, the entire amount has been committed by the 681th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8672-10-C-0013, PO 0002).
March 24/09: Boeing subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO receives a $7 million firm-fixed-price contract modification for 100 “focused lethality munition” variants of the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bomb Phase I. The 681th ARSS at Eglin Air Force Base, FL manages the contract (FA8672-09-C-0047, PO 0002).