ACC declares small diameter bomb initially operational

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke
  • Air Combat Command Public Affairs
The Air Combat Command commander declared initial operational capability for the Guided Bomb Unit-39/B Small Diameter Bomb Oct. 2 and the weapon made its combat debut just three days later.

Gen. Ronald E. Keys made the IOC announcement six months ahead of schedule, only weeks after it was initially delivered to the warfighter in early September for Air and Space Expeditionary Force 3/4.

The GBU-39/B was flown into combat for the first time Oct. 5 by members of the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron based in Southwest Asia. A two-ship formation of
F-15E Strike Eagles carried the new air-to-ground bomb while providing close-air support for ground troops operating in Iraq.

Boeing, the GBU-39B manufacturer, describes the bomb as "the next generation of low-cost and low-collateral damage precision strike weapons for ... employment from fighters, bombers and unmanned aerial vehicles." The F-15E Strike Eagle is the only aircraft currently equipped to carry the SDB. However, future potential platforms include the F-16 Fighting Falcon, B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

The SDB have high precision capabilities. They are lightweight and small which means increased aircraft payload. The bomb, a mere 250 pounds, has a smaller lethality radius, but its advanced technology makes the small blast a benefit, not a liability.

"SDB is a very precise coordinate-seeking weapon," said Lt. Col. Mark Pierce, ACC Advanced Weapons Requirements Branch deputy chief. "Because of its precision, it doesn't have to carry a lot of explosive material to achieve weapons effects against the specified target. Therefore ... targets can be serviced without the excessive blast and fragmentation of a larger weapon. The result should be less collateral damage."

Furthermore, its small size enables aircraft to carry more weapons, allowing commanders "to service more targets on a single pass." Its mounting carriage, the BRU-61/A, fits four bombs on one weapon pylon.

It is also a versatile weapon. The SDB range is more than 50 nautical miles when launched at 40,000 feet at Mach .95. This enables an aircraft to launch SDBs to multiple targets, while beyond the range of many anti-aircraft systems. Additionally, it is an all-weather weapon, effective day or night and can be fired at targets in front of, to the sides, and behind the employing aircraft. It is effective on stationary targets within 1.2 meters. Typical targets include hardened aircraft bunkers, early-warning radar, stationary SCUD missile launchers, stationary artillery and more, said Colonel Pierce.

Because of the nature of the war on terrorism, warfighters need a weapon like this now, according to Colonel Pierce. That demand accelerated efforts to get the SDB to the field as soon as possible. Meeting this need approximately six months ahead of schedule is a feat lauded by the ACC commander.

"This milestone is the culmination of outstanding teamwork from the acquisition, industry, and test communities and delivers increased combat capability to the warfighter," said General Keys.