JDAM manufacturer Boeing’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb I is a 250 pound weapon with pop-out glide fins that greatly improve its range, and GPS/INS guidance. Its narrow body and streamlined shape help it punch above its weight against hardened targets, and its small size has the dual benefit of allowing more bombs per aircraft (4 per pylon), and lessening collateral damage beyond the target.
The Dutch have already ordered dual-mode GPS/laser guided Enhanced Paveway kits that fit 500 pound bombs, so the capability isn’t new. What would change are range, carrying profiles for the lighter weapons, and number of bombs available per fighter. The new GBU-39s would initially see use on the same Dutch F-16 fighters, which have received a Mid-Life Upgrade and are expected to get additional software modifications. If the Dutch hope to field the new weapons in 2012 as planned, however, they may have to overcome some political obstacles at home…
With the explosion in the number of cell phones and other commercial wireless devices, the US Federal Communications Commission has had to take spectrum used by US government agencies and shift it over to commercial use.
Italian defense company Oto Melara and Boeing Defense, Space & Security in St. Louis, MO, agreed to co-produce the Small Diameter Bomb Increment I (SDB I) weapon system (GBU-39 SDB) for the Italian Air Force.
SDB I [pdf] is a 250-pound precision strike weapon with a GPS-aided inertial guidance system. It incorporates a steel case and penetrating blast-fragmentation warhead, as well as deployable wings for extended range.
Under the terms of the $34 million contract, Boeing will provide SDB I mechanical and electrical components and test equipment to Oto Melara for production of 500 tactical weapons (GBU-39 SDBs), 50 four-place weapon carriages (BRU-61/A), and associated support equipment…
Boeing Co. subsidiary McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis, MO received a $114.6 million contract to provide support for small diameter bomb (SDB) Increment 1 [pdf] production for munitions, carriages and technical support.
The GBU-39 SDB dramatically increases the strike capability of every combat aircraft in the US inventory. This 250 pound guided weapon has the same penetration capabilities as a 2000lb BLU-109 because of its length to diameter ratio, smart fuse and nose shape, demonstrating penetration of more than 6 feet of reinforced concrete with only 50 pounds of explosive…
The F-35 Lightning II is a major multinational program intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role strike fighter that will have three variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy. The aircraft is named after Lockheed’s famous WW2 P-38 Lightning, and the Mach 2, stacked-engine English Electric (now BAE)Lightning jet. System development partners included The USA & Britain (Tier 1), Italy and the Netherlands (Tier 2), and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey (Tier 3). Now the challenge is agreeing on production phase buys, with initial purchase commitments expected around 2008-2009. Export interest is also beginning to stir in a number of quarters, even though full testing will not be complete until 2014.
“Dual guidance” bombs are becoming popular. They cost more, but deliver on versatility once all that money has been spent to get its carrying aircraft into position. GPS/INS guidance gives them the ability to bomb through sandstorm, fog, or other obscurement; or from high altitude, or without active targeting. Laser guidance adds other advantages, including improved accuracy and the ability to moving targets that have been “painted” by a laser designator.
Britain’s Paveway-IV project, France’s recent retrofits, Boeing’s LJDAM, and Raytheon’s Enhanced Paveway family weapons all fall into this category. So, too, does RAFAEL’s Spice, though it uses a combination of GPS/INS and imaging infrared (IIR). In October 2008, US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) added another entry when PMA-201 Precision Strike Weapons delivered the first Dual-Mode Laser-Guided Bomb (DMLGB) to the Fleet…
Israel was the first non-US customer for JDAM kits, which turn ordinary bombs into GPS-guided precision smart weapons. In August 2007, they submitted a request for thousands more JDAMs through official channels. They also build their own GPS-guided weapons, including the dual-guidance Spice bomb. Meanwhile, the USA has been working on a 250 pound integrated JDAM derivative known as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. Its aerodynamics, penetration, and warhead design are crafted to punch into slightly hardened targets with the force of a weapon several times its size, while giving it greater glide range than its JDAM counterparts. When facing the right array of targets, from terrorist safe houses to a concrete nuclear reactor shell, the ability to carry 8 GBU-39s in place of 2 JDAM 2,000 pound bombs would halve a fighter’s weapon payload, extend its range, raise its number of potential targets/ impact points/ attempts, and lower collateral damage. It’s a potent combination.
On Sept 9/08, The US DSCA announced [PDF] Israel’s formal request for 1,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB1), 150 BRU-61/A SDB1 Mounting Carriages (4 GBU-39s each), 30 Guided Test Vehicles, 2 BRU-61/A SDB Instrumented Carriages for testing, 7 Jettison Test Vehicles, 1 Separation Test Vehicle, 2 Reliability and Assessment Vehicles, 12 Common Munitions BIT and Reprogramming Equipment with Test Equipment and Adapters, 3 SDB1 Weapons Simulators, and 2 Load Crew Trainers; plus containers, flight test integration, spare and repair parts, and other forms of support. The estimated cost is $77 million.
Boeing in St. Louis, MO would be the prime contractor. Implementation of this proposed sale will involve multiple trips to Israel by U.S. Government and contractor representatives for one-week intervals, for approximately 3 years.
July 11/08: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] Singapore’s official request for a series of American air-air missiles and precision strike weapons.
The $962 million request also includes items and services like missile containers, common munitions built-in test reprogramming equipment, testing, integration, devices, aircrew safety equipment, repair and return, weapons trainers, electronic warfare systems and support, software support and test equipment, life support and survival equipment, spares and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related support.
Singapore is currently in the process of buying 20 F-15SG Strike Eagles, whose features and equipment will make them the most advanced F-15s in service anywhere in the world. Past weapons requests associated with the F-15SGs have been announced as such, but this order was simply listed as a general weapons order. Other aircraft in the RSAF’s inventory that could use some or all of the weapons listed below include their squadrons of F-16C/D Block 52+ aircraft, and F-5T Tiger II lightweight fighters that were modernized in the 1990s.
Raytheon recently announced a competitive contract win in The Netherlands for 200 of their Enhanced Paveway II dual-guidance GPS/laser-guided bomb kits. The contract is a direct commercial sale rather than a Foreign Military Sale, and the kits will fit 500 pound bombs, turning them into precision-guided GBU-49s. Cost was not disclosed.
The GBU-49 has been used extensively in Iraq, and will not be blocked by haze, sandstorms, and other weather conditions. Adding it to the Dutch arsenal will give their F-16s potent options for close air support in Afghanistan. Dual-guidance precision bombs are becoming more popular; France and Britain have recently taken similar steps.
Projects to give GPS-guided smart bombs dual-guidance capability are popular these days. Israel has developed its GPS/EO Spice bomb, the USA has Laser JDAMs, and Britain has cobbled together a Paveway II+ as an interim step while working on its own Paveway IV. The combination provides the improved accuracy and ability to hit moving targets offered by laser-guidance, with GPS available as a backup that allows the pilot to drop bombs even through weather conditions that would defeat lasers. While the Spice is entirely autonomous thanks to its use of cameras + image recognition technology as a final guidance corrective, the laser/GPS combination relies on either a targeting pod or another targeting laser source to light up its quarry for final adjustments. If weather conditions allow laser use closer to the ground, it may even be possible to receive all the benefits of dual laser/GPS guidance despite poor conditions at altitude.