Tag Archives: Small Diameter Bomb

Interesting images show a Tornado IDS carrying eight GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs during test flight

The Tornado fighter bomber is one of the platforms already integrated with the GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs).

The GBU-39 SDB is a 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating bomb with a blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets.

These bombs are 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.

GBU-39s are quite small: they are usually carried in two pairs underneath the fuselage (on tactical jets) or on the underwing pylons (on the AC-130W that is the largest aircraft to use this kind of bomb).

Among the Lessons Learned of the Air War in Libya, there was the need to employ SDBs to improve accuracy from distance and reduce collateral damage; a GBU-39 launched at high-speed from high altitude 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.

The SDB is currently integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-22, that with software increment 3.1 is able to carry 8 GBU-39s, and the AC-130W whereas all the remaining U.S. bombers (including the F-35) will get the slender bombs in the future. The Israeli and Italian air forces have procured this kind of weapon as well, with the latter planning to integrate the SDBs on the Tornado aircraft upgraded to the enhanced RET 7 and 8 standards.

Separation tests from the Italian Tornado were announced in 2003 and planned from late 2015; the images in this post, taken near Decimomannu airbase, in Sardinia, Italy, by photographer Giampaolo Mallei, show a Panavia Tornado MLU (Mid-Life Update) carrying four SDBs during the testing campaign conducted by Alenia Aeronautica.

Tornado with SDBs side

Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei

 

Hawaiian F-22 Raptors deploying to UAE to join air war on ISIS

Six Hawaii Air National Guard are deploying to the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Six Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptors are enroute from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, to Al Dhafra, UAE, to join the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

Once there, the aircraft will replace the U.S. Air Force Raptors already there for a 6-month rotational deployment that will see the aircraft take part in Operation Inherent Resolve in the airspaces of Iraq and Syria: although they can attack their own targets using Precision Guided Munitions (two 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs or 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs) while covering other aircraft in a typical swing role mission, the F-22 have proved to be useful in the air war against ISIS by making other aircraft more survivable, acting as electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft that provide “kinetic situational awareness” to other aircraft involved in the air strikes.

Who knows, maybe they will even come close to the Russian Su-30s and Su-34s involved in the raids against IS terrorists across Syria (or they will simply be spied by the Russian Il-20 Coot deployed there).

For the 199th Fighter Squadron this is the first combat tour of duty since the deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2000, to patrol the southern NFZ (No Fly Zone) of Iraq. At that time the squadron flew the F-15 Eagle; it transitioned to the F-22 Raptor in 2010, flying the 5th Generation stealth planes in partnership with the 19th Fighter Squadron.

On their way to the Middle East, the aircraft made a stopover in Moron, Spain, and Sigonella, Italy.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

U.S. is about to deploy F-22 Raptor stealth jets to Europe in a show of force against Russia

F-22 Raptors to be deployed to Europe “very soon.”

The Air Force is about to deploy the F-22 Raptor 5th generation multi-role stealth fighter to the European theater, as a potential deterrent to Russian aggression, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said on Aug. 24.

The Raptor deployment had already been announced in June, when Air Force Secretary, at Le Bourget airshow in Paris, said that Russia was the “biggest threat” her mind, but it now appears to be few days away.

So far the U.S. has responded to the proxy war in Ukraine and to the spike in Russia Air Force activity in the Baltic region with two 6-month TSPs (Theater Security Packages), made up of F-15s and A-10s, and stepping up its presence at regional exercises with NATO allies and partners, attended also by B-52 strategic bombers and A-10 attack planes.

Raptors have often taken part in rotational deployments in the Asia-Pacific region since 2009, but have never been deployed to Europe. It would be interesting to know which airbases are being considered for such deployment that should include 12 aircraft and 200-300 support personnel even though the aircraft will probably not be stationed at a single base but will perform short rotations to a few airports in eastern Europe as already done by the F-15s and A-10s of the previous TSPs (that have visited Germany, UK, Poland, Estonia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, etc.).

Although it was born U.S.’s premier air superiority fighter the F-22 has become a multirole aircraft that has had its baptism of fire in the air-to-surface role during the air war against ISIS: along with air-to-air missiles, the Raptor can also drop Precision Guided Munitions: two 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) or 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs.

However, according to the U.S. Air Force, during the air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the once troubled stealth plane has emerged as F-22 is pivotal to ensure the safety of the other aircraft involved in the air campaign: the Raptors act as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich multi-role aircraft” that provide key kinetic situational awareness to other aircraft: they escort strike packages into and out of the target area while gathering details about the enemy systems and spreading intelligence to other “networked” assets supporting the mission to improve the overall situational awareness.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

All you need to know about U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor’s baptism of fire over Syria

In the night of Sept. 23, the U.S. and partner nations have launched a series of air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. And, for the first time ever, the F-22 Raptor has had its baptism of fire.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were involved in the opening wave of the air campaign the U.S. and some partner nations launched in Syria against ISIS.

Even though the extent of their involvement was not disclosed, considered the scenario it is quite likely the Raptor stealth multi-role jets flew Swing Role missions: by exploiting their radar-evading capability, the F-22s probably flew high and fast to provide cover to the rest of the strike package during the ingress into the enemy airspace (in what is considered a typical OCA – Offensive Counter Air mission), then dropped their Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) on designated targets, and escorted the package again during the egress and subsequent return to base.

Tasked for air-to-ground configuration, the F-22 can carry two 1,000-lb GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, along with AIM-120s AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) radar-guided missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder IR-guided missiles.

With software increment 3.1 or higher, the F-22 can also drop 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs, 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating, blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets, equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range. These bombs are particularly useful to improve accuracy and reduce collateral damage.

The aircraft involved in the raids that marked the baptism of fire of the Raptor fleet were probably the six F-22 Block 35 jets with the 1st Fighter Wing from Joint Base Langley–Eustis, Virginia, that, as we reported, deployed to Al Dhafra, in the UAE, in April 2014.

Indeed, the aircraft with the typical “FF” tail code were spotted in the images released by the DoD which showed some F-22s during mid-air refueling over the Persian Gulf in May. What we don’t know yet, is whether the initial detachment of six planes was joined by more planes due to the crisis.

Interestingly, in an interview given at the end of 2013, General Hawk Carlisle said 5th generation aircraft would provide forward target identification for strike missiles launched from a surface warship or submerged submarine, in the future. The PACAF commander described the ability of the F-22s, described as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich aircraft,” to provide forward targeting through their sensors for submarine based T-LAMS (cruise missiles). Although it’s quite unlikely that the U.S. Air Force has already implemented this capability, it’s not completely impossible that the aircraft were involved in a similar mission on Sept. 23, designating targets for T-LAMs launched by USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea.

 

New (still quite secret) Hit-to-Kill missile for the F-35 unveiled: the Lockheed Martin “Cuda”

Until a photo with an interesting caption appeared on the November 2012 issue of Air Force Magazine, few people had noticed that an F-35 display model at the Air Force Association Technology Expo 2012, had its weapon bays loaded with a brand new type of air-to-air missile: the Lockheed Martin “Cuda”.

Image credit: Air Force Magazine

“A Lockheed Martin model shows how its “’Cuda” concept for a small AMRAAM-class radar guided dogfight missile could triple the air-to-air internal loadout on an F-35. The missile is about the size of a Small Diameter Bomb and fits on an SDB-style rack.”

Photo caption aside, almost nothing is known about the “Cuda” missile.

“We are having some challenges getting information on Cuda cleared for public release,” Cheryl Amerine, Cuda POC at the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, told The Aviationist.

“Cuda is a Lockheed Martin multi-role Hit-to-Kill (HTK) missile concept.  Lockheed Martin has discussed the missile concept with the United States Air Force. The Cuda concept significantly increases the internal carriage capacity for 5th generation fighters (provides 2X to 3X capacity).  Combat proven HTK  technology has been in the US Army for over a decade.  Bringing this proven HTK technology to the USAF will provide potentially transformational new capabilities and options for new CONOPS.”

The Hit-to-Kill missile technology Lockheed is designing for the USAF is still classified and some of the capabilities of the Cuda missile are being reviewed for public release. Still, something can be said based on the few details available.

First of all, the F-35 will carry kinetic energy interceptors: “hit-to-kill” weapons rely on the kinetic energy of the impact to destroy their target. That’s why some HTK missiles don’t carry any warhead (others use a lethality enhancer warhead).

Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin

HTK technologies can be used for missile defense (Scuds, rockets or even ballistic missiles). Is someone at the Pentagon studying the possibilty to use F-35s carrying clusters of Cudas as aerial anti-missile systems to intercept small rockets, SAMs (surface-to-air missiles)?

Second, that unlike Sidewinders, Cuda missiles, rather than being equipped with an IIR (Imaging Infra Red) seeker, will be radar-guided. This means they will be ejected from the internal bays in such a way the exposure of the stealth plane is reduced.

Third, the possible integration of the Cuda with the F-22: since a Raptor can carry eight SDB, it can theoretically carry up to eight Cuda, even if the perfect air-to-air loadout could be mix of AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X and Cuda missiles.

 

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