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The US Air Force’s (USAF) GBU-53/B small diameter bomb II (SDB II) has successfully scored direct hits against targets moving at operationally representative speeds during a series of flight tests at an undisclosed location.

Currently developed by Raytheon, the bomb also underwent supporting tests in a multitude of different environments and scenarios, to mature seeker algorithms and validate its aerodynamic performance.

Jointly carried out by USAF and Raytheon, the test flights helped reinforce the system’s capability to address a critical warfighter requirement.

Raytheon Missile Systems SDB II programme director John O’Brien said the successes mark the latest in a series of test flights demonstrating the company’s readiness to advance the SDB II programme to the system verification review and Milestone C.

"These tests showcase the game-changing capability of Raytheon’s tri-mode seeker to detect, track and engage moving targets in adverse weather," O’Brien said.

"The bomb is scheduled to enter production in January 2014."

Equipped with an improved tri-mode seeker and a highly lethal warhead, the GBU-53/B SDB II is an air-launched precision-strike weapon designed to destroy armoured targets from stand-off ranges in adverse weather conditions, with minimum collateral damage.

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Manufactured at Raytheon’s automated tri-mode seeker factory, the SDB II’s seeker operates in three modes, including millimeter-wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared and semiactive laser, and can peer through storm clouds or battlefield dust and debris to enable engagement of fixed or moving targets.

Designed to be installed on F-15E, F-35B and F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft, the bomb also shows compatibility with the USAF’s F-35A, F/A-22 and F-16C/D, as well as the Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft.

Currently in the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase, the bomb is scheduled to enter production in January 2014.

Image: The GBU-53/B small diameter bomb II is designed for installation on USAF’s F-15E fighter aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Gerry Metzler.

Defence Technology