Saab Australia is pitching its innovative rocket-launched version of the small diameter bomb (SDB) as a lower cost complementary capability for the Australian Army’s Project LAND 8113 requirement for a ground launched missile system.
Though a decision is some way away, the current favourite appears to be the US M142 High Mobility Rocket Artillery System (HIMARS) – a wheeled vehicle able to launch the precision guided MGM-140 ATACMS out to a range of 300 kilometres – which has been used extensively in support of US combat operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The next-generation proposed Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) will hit targets out to 500 kilometres.
The Ground-launched SDB comprises a rocket booster attached to a Boeing SDB I, and offers a precision strike capability out to 150 kilometres at substantially lower cost. The 110 kilogram INS/GPS guided GBU-39 SDB I is a proven capability, with more than 35,000 produced and 9,000 dropped in combat.
Saab Australia sales director for land Marc Bryant said project LAND 8113 would acquire a long-range precision fires capability, initially with longer range munitions such as PrSM .
“We are not suggesting the ground-launched SDB is THE solution, but it’s a complementary munition for that longer-range rocket system,” Bryant told ADBR at LAND FORCES 2021 on June 3. “What we are trying to pitch here is a very cost effective system.
“It doesn’t have the legs of a PrSM or ATACMS, but it still has a decent range,” he added. “You can load up to six of these in a standard HIMARS or MLRS container. You can launch multiple SDBs at any one time to get a multiple round, simultaneous impact.”
Trials of ground launched SDB have been conducted in Norway and the US. The USAF has even experimented with swarming SDBs in a program called Golden Horde. While SDB itself is a precision munition manufactured in the US, the rocket motor could be made in Australia under the program to stand up a domestic missile capability.
“This is a great opportunity and this is really low hanging fruit for a sovereign guided munition capability,” Bryant said, adding that, should Australian engineers manage to improve on the existing M26 rocket motor, there’s potential to substantially increase the range.