Boeing sees a laser-guided version of its 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) filling a potential gap should U.S. lawmakers slow production of a new, more advanced version of the weapon built by Raytheon.
This comes as a powerful Senate panel has recommended slowing production of the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II), not due to development or testing issues but to major delays in the fielding of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, one of the two aircraft that will employ the weapon.
Boeing – maker of the baseline SDB – sees this as an opportunity to sell an upgraded version of its baseline weapon, which can strike moving targets.
Eh. Maybe. Probably not. Boeing is talking about simply grafting a laser seeker onto the existing SDB. Eminently doable. But with the Ratheon SDB II well along in development, and almost certain for introduction eventually, it really isn’t a critical need.
The SDB II is generally similar to the already in service SDB. But where the SDB relies solely on inertial navigation with GPS updates, the SDB II will feature a tri-modal terminal seeker. Millimeter Wavelength radar, autonomous Imaging Infrared, and Laser Seeker capability will give the attacker wide choices on how to manage the attack. If nothing else, it can still be launched with simply the inertial/GPS mode. It also has a datalink that allows the crew to update its targeting in flight.
SBD II will be a weapon of choice for engaging modern mobile surface to air missile systems outside their engagement envelope. The fact that it can engage a wide variety of other targets is icing on the cake.
By the way, should the tri-modal seeker prove successful, expect to see it employed widely on other weapons such as replacements for the current JDAM and Paveway families of bombs.