The Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) integration, is one of the many programs to keep the A-10 Warthog flying in the 2030s.
The U.S. Air Force recently released, on March 25, the first photos of an A-10C Thunderbolt II loaded with GBU-39 Small-Diameter Bombs during a test near Eglin Air Force Base (Florida). The service did not disclose much info, except for mentioning that the test flight was performed by the 40th Flight Test Squadron on Feb. 9, 2022.
The integration of the GBU-39 on the “Warthog”, as the A-10 is affectionately known by its pilot, is one of the major upgrades that were announced in 2019 as part of the A-10 Common Fleet Initiative. The program has the goal of keeping the aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory until late 2030s, while at the same time making sure that the A-10C will be a credible and lethal threat in that timeframe, should the need to deploy it during an eventual high-end conflict arise.
US Air Force 40th Flight Test Squadron flies A-10C with Small-Diameter Bombs during a test near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida on Feb. 9. pic.twitter.com/OHmtfU8f4U
— Ryan Chan 陳家翹 (@ryankakiuchan) March 25, 2022
Until now the A-10 was limited to carry only a single weapon on each pylon; by using the BRU-61/A rack, the A-10 will be able to carry four SDBs on each weapon pylon, becoming a “bomb truck” that can release these stand-off weapons to neutralize threats as far as 50 miles in the target area before starting to provide Close Air Support (CAS) to ground troops. In the photos released on DVIDS we can see the aircraft carrying four BRU-61s, for a total of 16 SDBs.
The integration of the GBU-39 on the A-10 has been in the works at least since 2020, when The War Zone reported that SDB testing was in developmental testing with the 40th Flight Test Squadron, Detachment 1, based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The GBU-39, first deployed aboard the F-15E Strike Eagle in 2006, is currently integrated also on the F-16, F-22, AC-130, Gripen and Tornado and will be integrated on the F-35, B-1, B-2 and B-52.
As we already reported, the SDB is a small 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating bomb with a blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets. It is equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range that open upon release allowing the GPS-guided bomb to glide for several miles before hitting the target with accuracy: launched at high-speed from high altitude it can travel for as much as 50 miles, allowing the attack plane to remain outside the range of most SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) batteries.