Raytheon Missiles & Defense has announced it has completed the first guided release of a GBU-53/B StormBreaker precision guided bomb from a US Navy F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.
Previously known as the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II), the tri-mode StormBreaker has been designed to be able to hit moving targets such as vehicles and small boats, while still being effective against fixed 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,” Raytheon’s StormBreaker program director, Cristy Stagg said in a statement. “Super Hornet pilots will be able to use poor visibility to their advantage when StormBreaker integration is complete.”
The Super Hornet is the second aircraft to be integrated with the weapon after the Boing F-15E Strike Eagle. Because of its compact size, up to eight StormBreakers can be carried on an external weapons rack, and the F-15E can carry at least two such racks.
The announcement coincides with US media reports that production of the GBU-53/B has been paused since July 2019 after the discovery of technical issues with clips that hold the weapon’s folded wings. The wings deploy after launch, allowing the weapon to glide more than 100km depending on launch parameters.
A report in DefenseNews cites a US Government Accountability Office (DAO) report that states the issue has delayed the fielding of the weapon, and that a retrofit for nearly 600 weapons already delivered to the USAF and US Navy is being developed.
“While this problem could affect all aircraft carrying the bomb, officials said the greatest impact is to the F-35, because the bomb is carried in the aircraft’s internal weapons bay and could cause serious damage if the fins deploy while the bomb is in the bay,” the GAO reports states.
Australia was approved to acquire 3,900 GBU-53/Bs for the RAAF’s F-35As in 2017, but it is not known if any have been delivered yet.