US Navy’s Super Hornet adopts StormBreaker Smart Weapons

A U.S. Navy Super Hornet successfully launched a Stormbreaker glide bomb, a major step towards confirming initial operational capability (IOC). Stormbreaker is the Pentagon’s most advanced smart bomb to date, capable of seeking out and destroying moving targets and flying in night and adverse weather conditions.

The seeker works in three modes to provide maximum operational flexibility: millimeter wave radar to detect and track targets through weather, imaging infrared for enhanced target discrimination and semi-active laser that enables the weapon to track an airborne laser designator or one on the ground.

This powerful, integrated seeker seamlessly shares targeting information among all three modes, enabling the weapon to engage fixed or moving targets at any time of day and in all-weather conditions. The StormBreaker’s tri-mode seeker can also peer through battlefield dust and debris, giving the warfighter a capability that’s unaffected by conditions on the ground or in the air.

Stormbreaker is a glide bomb designed to attack moving targets in all weather conditions. The bomb is capable of gliding up to 45 miles using wings and tail fins that deploy after launch. Stormbreaker then homes in on a target illuminated by a laser, with illumination provided by a second aircraft or troops on the ground. A millimeter-wave radar seeker allows the bomb to see through clouds, fog, and smoke, while an imaging infrared sensor gives Stormbreaker the ability to distinguish between the target and something that merely looks like a target.

Stormbreaker was developed from the original Small Diameter Bomb, which is too bulky to fit in the internal weapons bays of the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Mounting a weapon on the external rails of a stealth fighter will negate the plane’s radar-evading qualities, so such planes must carry all of their ordnance internally. Raytheon took the original weapon concept, slimmed the bomb down, and added the tri-mode seeker.

Stormbreaker bombs loaded on a F-15E Strike Eagle.

The F/A-18E/F is the second U.S. military warplane to wield Stormbreaker, after the F-15E Strike Eagle. The weapon’s small size makes it possible for most of the Pentagon’s warbirds to carry the new bomb. According to Raytheon, Stormbreaker will also be carried by the, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress, A-10 Warthog, MQ-9 Reaper, and AC-130 gunship.

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