Raytheon Missiles & Defense announced that it has completed the first guided release of a StormBreaker smart bomb from an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, achieving another milestone on the bomb’s path to initial operational capability which is scheduled for later this year.
By completing the recent test, the Super Hornet is becoming the second fighter jet to add the weapon, after the F-15E.
One of the US Air Force’s newest weapons has a unique tri-mode seeker that enables pilots to hit moving targets in adverse weather or low visibility. The bomb can use either imaging infrared and millimeter wave radar in its normal mode, or its semi-active laser or GPS guidance to hit targets.
“StormBreaker is the only weapon that enables pilots to hit moving targets during bad weather or if dust and smoke are in the area,” said Cristy Stagg, StormBreaker program director. “Super Hornet pilots will be able to use poor visibility to their advantage when StormBreaker integration is complete.”
Raytheon said the GBU-53/B StormBreaker safely separated from the jet and successfully received guidance data from the plane during the US Navy flight test, enabling it to be directed to its target while in flight.
The development program has not been without the challenges, however, as the company has had to tackle technical problems plaguing a small but important component of the bomb. According to a Defense News report, Raytheon discovered that the clips used to hold the bomb’s fins “suffered vibration fatigue over long flight hours”. As noted in the report, the government accountability office noted that the premature deployment of the fins could damage the weapon and cause a safety hazard for the aircraft.
The US Air Force could approve a fix for the problem as early as July this year, it was further noted in the report.
The StormBreaker is also being integrated on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.