USAF clears F-15E to use StormBreaker smart weapon

Raytheon Missiles & Defense announced on October 13 that the US Air Force (USAF) has cleared the firm’s GBU-53/B StormBreaker smart weapon for use on its Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle fleet.

This milestone came on September 23, after Raytheon and the USAF concluded a series of test and integration activities with the StormBreaker precision-guided glide bomb and the Strike Eagle. The F-15E will become the first aircraft to operationally employ the munition, which was previously known as the Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II). StormBreaker is capable of striking stationary and moving targets from more than 40 miles away, day or night, and in adverse weather conditions.

F-15E StormBreaker [Raytheon]
A USAF-operated Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle in flight. Note that this aircraft is equipped with a single GBU-53/B StormBreaker precision-guided glide bomb under the belly. Raytheon

Cristy Stagg, the StormBreaker programme director at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, said: “The weapon has proven itself in many complex test scenarios, against a variety of targets in extreme environmental conditions, and is now ready to fly.”

StormBreaker was designed to be small to allow fighter aircraft to carry more of them. For example, a single F-15E can be equipped with up to 28 individual munitions in seven groups of four weapons. The munition employs a unique tri-mode seeker system, which uses imaging infrared or millimetre wave radar to detect and track targets, as well as a semi-active laser to hit designated targets.

StormBreaker [Raytheon]
Along with the F-15E Strike Eagle, the GBU-58/B StormBreaker munition will be integrated onto the US Navy's Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet and all three variants of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II family. Raytheon

In a separate statement released by the USAF, Brig Gen Heath Collins, the executive officer of the Air Force Weapons Program, said: “[StormBreaker’s] ability to attack moving targets, at range in adverse weather, delivers a significant advantage to our warfighter’s arsenal. Fielding this weapon is a momentous accomplishment for everyone involved.”

The USAF added that a combination of 138 developmental and operational test flights were flown from Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida to achieve the milestone. By the end of 2020, it is expected that the US Navy will approve the munition’s use on its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet. Plans are also in place to integrate StormBreaker onto all three variants of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighter.