Raytheon and the Air Force are working toward initially fielding the new Small Diameter Bomb II, or "StormBreaker," on Boeing's F-15E. The program recently finished operational testing. Air Force photo via Raytheon.
The Air Force is furthering three bomb buys while significantly ramping up procurement of two missiles meant for conflict with peer adversaries.
The Air Force in late September awarded two contracts totaling $480 million for Small Diameter Bomb production and life cycle support. The first, awarded Sept. 26, included $280 million to Boeing for Small Diameter Bomb I integration and engineering support. This contract covers work expected to last until September 2024, according to a Pentagon announcement.
Then, on Sept. 30, the Air Force awarded Raytheon a $200 million contract for Small Diameter Bomb II life cycle support, including integration, production, and sustainment of the new “Stormbreaker” weapon that offers improved targeting abilities over the SDB I. The Pentagon expects work will be completed by the end of September 2024.
Both the weapons are among the service’s top-priority munitions, and recent budgets called for an increase in production of both. Overall, the Air Force wants about 49,500 SDBs plus 12,000 SDB IIs. It’s unclear when SDB II will start entering combat, after a top USAF weapons official said earlier this year fielding could help the service work out some of the bomb’s remaining issues.
The Air Force is continuing its heaviest bomb program as well. The service on Sept. 30 awarded a $70 million contract to procure Boeing’s GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrators. The GPS-guided, 30,000-lb bomb, also known as a “bunker buster,” is designed to break through hardened targets with a 5,300-lb high explosive. While the yield of the bomb is less than the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or “Mother of All Bombs,” its heavier weight helps it destroy tunnels and other underground facilities.
Boeing first began integrating the MOP onto aircraft in 2009. The most recent contract covers work through the end of 2022, according to a Pentagon release.
Notably, the Air Force also indicated it wants to more than double its purchases of Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. After broadcasting its intent to grow the JASSM program from 4,900 to 7,200 weapons in the 2020 budget, the service said Sept. 27 it is growing the potential JASSM total to 10,000 missiles. It is eyeing exponential growth for the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, a JASSM variant, from a possible maximum of 110 to 400 as well.
The service is mulling ordering batches of up to 390 JASSM-Extended Range missiles starting in Lot 18, then up to 400 JASSM variants in Lot 19, topping out at as many as 550 per lot through Lot 30.
“This also includes 50 LRASM missiles in LRASM Lot 4, reaching a maximum rate of 96 per lot in subsequent lots, continuing through Lot 8,” the service said in a sources-sought notice. “This effort also includes sustainment efforts to include operational safety, suitability, and effectiveness.”
Forty JASSM-D units, formerly known as the JASSM-XR “extreme-range” version, would enter the production line as part of Lot 19.
“JASSM-D is a spiral upgrade to the ER missile and it will perform similar missions for the warfighter,” Lockheed spokesman Joseph Monaghen said. After the Air Force awarded Lockheed a JASSM upgrade contract in fall 2018, the XR missile was redesignated as the AGM-158D.
“Lockheed Martin then received a January 2019 contract award from the USAF as part of a planned upgrade program for the JASSM family of missiles,” Monaghen said. “This part of the upgrade activity is to develop, test and integrate new wing designs onto JASSM to increase standoff range, making the weapon even more capable and adding greater mission flexibility.”