Explore The Best Of GBU-53/B StormBreaker

In 2020, Raytheon introduced the cutting-edge next-generation smart Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) into active service. Here, we will Explore The Best Of GBU-53/B StormBreaker, an awe-inspiring weapon with unparalleled capabilities to engage moving targets in treacherous weather conditions, day or night.

This American-origin, air-launched, precision-guided glide bomb represents a monumental leap forward compared to JDAM. StormBreaker is a testament to the joint efforts of the United States Air Force and Navy, meticulously designed for reliability and affordability. Brace yourself for an intensified weapons load-out that caters to the needs of 4th, 5th, and forthcoming 6th-generation fighter aircraft, bombers, and RPAs. Notably, StormBreaker can launch multiple targeted attacks from distances surpassing 45 nautical miles, striking moving targets with pinpoint precision, even within close-in, immediate attack ranges.

In 2006, the development of the GBU-53/B StormBreaker began, aiming to create a remarkable 250-pound (113 kg) class bomb with the capability to identify and strike mobile targets from standoff distances, regardless of weather conditions. This extraordinary weapon has been successfully integrated into prominent aircraft such as the F-15E Strike Eagle, as well as seamlessly integrated into the F/A-18 Hornet, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning fighters.

Explore The Best Of GBU-53/B StormBreaker / An AI-generated image showcasing the weapon is being released from the internal weapons bay of an F-35A
Explore The Best Of GBU-53/B StormBreaker / An AI-generated image showcasing the weapon being released from the internal weapons bay of an F-35A

The Concept Behind the Development of the GBU-53/B StormBreaker Smart Bomb:

The GBU-53/B StormBreaker, formerly referred to as the Small Diameter Bomb II, is an innovative precision-guided munition that was developed by Raytheon Technologies Corporation (RTX). Its primary objective during development was to tackle the ever-changing challenges of modern warfare and elevate the effectiveness of air-to-ground strikes. The underlying concept behind the StormBreaker smart bomb revolves around various crucial elements:

Precision Engagement: The primary goal of the StormBreaker is to enable highly precise targeting and engagement of enemy threats. Traditional bombs or larger munitions may cause collateral damage or have limited accuracy, making them less suitable for certain scenarios. StormBreaker fills this gap by providing a high degree of precision, reducing the risk to civilians and friendly forces. Its inertial navigator uses the latest anti-jam, a global positioning system (AJ-GPS) for pinpoint precision against high-value fixed targets from long standoff ranges in GPS-denied environments.

Furthermore, the bomb utilizes GPS/INS for initial guidance towards a moving target, with course correction updates provided via Link 16 over the UHF data link. The bomb incorporates three modes of target acquisition: millimetre-wave radar, infrared homing with an uncooled imaging seeker, and semi-active laser homing. The weapon has the capability to fuse information from the sensors to classify targets and can prioritize specific target types when used in semi-autonomous mode.

Photo Credit: Raytheon / An F-35A with four GBU-53/B StormBreakers and an AMRAAM in its weapons bay
Photo Credit: Raytheon / An F-35A with four GBU-53/B StormBreakers and an AMRAAM in its weapons bay

Network-Centric Warfare: StormBreaker is designed to operate within a network-centric warfare environment. It can receive target updates in real-time from various sources, such as aircraft, ground controllers, or other platforms, enabling dynamic retargeting. This feature enhances the bomb’s flexibility and adaptability, ensuring it can engage moving or relocatable targets effectively.

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Autonomous Operations: StormBreaker incorporates autonomous functions, enabling it to operate with minimal human intervention. Once released, it autonomously navigates towards its designated target using its internal navigation system or by utilizing third-party designators for laser spotting, making mid-course adjustments based on updated target information. This autonomous capability significantly enhances operational efficiency and reduces the workload on the launching platform.

Extended Standoff Range: StormBreaker is designed to be employed from a safe distance, enabling aircraft to engage targets from beyond the range of most enemy air defences. Its extended standoff range provides increased survivability for the launching aircraft and reduces the risk of being engaged by hostile countermeasures.

Multiple Targets Engagement: The StormBreaker smart bomb possesses the capability to engage multiple targets simultaneously, utilizing a single weapon. It autonomously identifies, tracks, and strikes multiple targets within its engagement area, optimizing its efficiency and minimizing the need for multiple munitions. The GBU-53/B features various multi-attack modes:

  • Normal Attack: Designed for engaging moving and stationary targets in adverse or clear weather conditions.
  • Coordinate Attack: Specifically tailored for engaging fixed targets in heavily defended environments.
  • Immediate Attack: Intended for close-in or pop-up opportunity targets, enabling rapid employment and following a predictable flight path.
  • Laser Illuminated Attack: Enables precise targeting by utilizing laser illumination to hit the desired spot with exceptional accuracy.
Photo Credit: Raytheon / F-15E with two GBU-53B StormBreakers in its port side weapons bay
Photo Credit: Raytheon / F-15E with two GBU-53/B StormBreakers in its port side weapons bay

Exploring the Intricacies of the GBU-53/B StormBreaker Design:

The design of the GBU-53/B StormBreaker (Small Diameter Bomb II) incorporates several intricate features to ensure its effectiveness and operational capabilities.
  • Size and Form Factor: The StormBreaker is designed to have a compact and lightweight munition configuration, boasting a diameter of approximately 7 inches (180 mm) and a length of around 70 inches (1.78 meters). Its small size enables a high payload capacity on aircraft, facilitating the carriage and launch of multiple munitions within a single mission. For instance, a single F-15E Strike Eagle can carry a total of 28 GBU-53/B units using seven BRU-61/A suspension units, with each suspension unit accommodating four bombs. Moreover, the F-22 Raptor’s weapons bay can house eight bombs alongside two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles.
  • However, a recent modification has been implemented to coincide with the software package for the F-35 Lightning II, including the STOVL F-35B variant. As a result, an F-35 can carry a total of 24 bombs, with eight internally and 16 externally when operating in an unstealthy mode.
  • Airframe: The StormBreakers airframe is built with composite materials to maintain a lightweight yet robust structure. The composite construction helps reduce the overall weight of the weapon while providing structural integrity during high-speed flight and impact.
  • Tri-Mode Seeker: Positioned at the front of the bomb, the StormBreaker boasts a sophisticated tri-mode seeker assembly. This assembly encompasses a millimetre-wave (MMW) radar, an imaging infrared (IIR) sensor, and a semi-active laser seeker, effectively enabling target detection, aim point refinement, and precise weapon guidance. These integrated sensors collaborate seamlessly to deliver a comprehensive target acquisition and tracking capability, functioning optimally in diverse operational conditions such as day and night scenarios, adverse weather conditions, and challenging battlefield obscurants.
  • Warhead: The StormBreaker bomb is equipped with a shaped charge warhead that combines blast and fragmentation effects. The warhead is optimized for engaging various types of targets, rendering it highly effective against infantry, armoured vehicles (including Main Battle Tanks), unhardened structures and buildings, patrol craft-sized boats, and personnel. Its design prioritizes maximizing lethality while minimizing collateral damage through controlled fragmentation. It is noteworthy to mention that the StormBreaker bomb represents the first purpose-built weapon specifically designed for enforcing no-drive zones.
  • Safe Arm Device: The weapon incorporates safety features, such as a safe arm device, to ensure it does not detonate prematurely. The safe arm device ensures the weapon is armed only when it reaches a safe distance from the launching aircraft, reducing the risk of accidental explosions or hazards during the weapon’s delivery phase.
  • Control Surfaces and Actuators: The StormBreaker incorporates control surfaces, including wings and tail fins, along with actuators for precise aerodynamic control. These surfaces play a crucial role in ensuring stability, manoeuvrability, and the capability to adjust the weapon’s trajectory during its flight. The actuators respond to guidance commands, enabling the weapon to make necessary course corrections and effectively track moving targets. This ability distinguishes the StormBreaker from conventional drop bombs, transforming it into a highly accurate smart bomb equipped with a sophisticated seeker head.
Photo Credit: USAF / F-22 releasing the GBU-53/B StormBreaker from its internal weapons bay
Photo Credit: USAF / F-22 releasing the GBU-53/B StormBreaker from its internal weapons bay

Technical Specifications Of The GBU-53/B StormBreaker:

  • Weight:  93 kg ( 204 lb )
  • Length:  5.75 ft ( 69 in )
  • Diameter:  6.7 in
  • Wingspan:  5.66 ft ( 68 in )
  • Warhead:  High-Explosive Blast/Fragmentation Warhead, Weighing 48 kg ( 105 lb )
  • Range:  Against the static targets, max 110 km ( 69 mi ) and against moving targets 72 km ( 45 mi )
  • Guidance system:  It utilizes a combination of advanced guidance systems, including millimetre wave active radar homing, semi-active laser guidance, infrared homing with an uncooled imaging infrared camera, GPS-coupled inertial guidance, and communication via Link 16 over UHF data link
  • Launch Platform:  So far, the StormBreaker has been successfully integrated with a range of aircraft, including the F-15E, F-16, F/A-18E/F, F-22, and F-35

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In conclusion, the GBU-53/B StormBreaker, which is also referred to as the Small Diameter Bomb II, showcases a remarkable advancement in precision-guided munitions technology. Its intricate design encompasses several key features, including compact size, a tri-mode seeker, network integration, and safety enhancements. These combined elements offer substantial improvements in air-to-ground engagements. With its precise guidance system, autonomous functionality, extended standoff range, and remarkable ability to engage multiple targets simultaneously, the StormBreaker emerges as an exceptionally versatile weapon.

Moreover, the seamless integration of the StormBreaker into network-centric warfare environments brings forth a range of benefits. Real-time target updates and retargeting capabilities significantly enhance mission flexibility. Additionally, the autonomous operation and compact form factor of the bomb contribute to heightened operational efficiency, enabling the delivery of multiple munitions within a single mission. Consequently, these remarkable advantages have garnered significant international recognition. Alongside the United States, countries such as Finland, Norway, and Germany have embraced the integration of the StormBreaker into their military arsenals, acknowledging its undeniable effectiveness.

In essence, the GBU-53/B StormBreaker serves as a pioneering leap forward in air-to-ground munitions technology, revolutionizing precision and operational capabilities for military forces worldwide.

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