The U.S. Air Force has awarded the Raytheon Company (NYSE: RTN) US$450 million for the development and production of GBU-53/B for the Small Diameter Bomb increment II program. SDB II is the next generation of the lightweight, aerial precision-strike standoff weapon designed with integral capability to accurately strike moving and fixed targets in adverse weather conditions. Raytheon has developed an all-new, streamlined bomb casing and folding swept-wing for the new weapon (shown in the photo above), departing from the MBDA designed ‘Diamond Back’ configuration used by the Boeing designed SDB (photo on left). The SDB family of weapons developed by Boeing quadruples the number of weapons an aircraft can carry, enabling aircrews to attack more targets on each sortie.
Raytheon’s proposal was selected over a competing offer from Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Raytheon will begin producing the new weapons in 2013 with initial deliveries completing the first production lot by late 2014. The GBU-53/B incorporates an three-modal seeker featuring millimeter-wave radar, a semi-active laser (SAL) and an uncooled imaging infrared. The use of an uncooled thermal imager is a unique implementation of such sensor in aerial weapons, demonstrating the maturity and high resolution achieved with bolometric technology. “Our uncooled IIR seeker met all the warfighter’s requirements and reduced the weapon’s total life-cycle cost and logistics footprint” said Dr. Taylor W. Lawrence, Raytheon Missile Systems president. The tri-modal terminal seeker is a derivative from the seeker systems used in the 120mm Medium Range Munition for the M-1A2 tank and the cancelled XM-501 Precision Attack Missile. Raytheon also integrated a new ‘multi effect warhead’ designed to defeat armored targets, structures and soft target in the open with minimal collateral damage.
Raytheon conducted a successful technical demonstration program, during which the company tested and verified that its form factored tri-mode seeker could seamlessly transition between modes. The GBU/53-B seeker proved its reliability during flight testing when it flew 26 missions in 21 days without a single hardware failure.