December 2004/January 2005 
Volume 03, Issue 8 
Integrated Defense Systems

Thinking small

The Small Diameter Bomb is designed for efficiency, effectiveness


the Small Diameter Bomb on the F-15EDan Jaspering and Don Hutcheson think a weapon flight test provokes a different sort of tension than an aircraft flight test. Problems can't be fixed or worked around after the weapon is "pickled," or released.

"Once you let go, all you can do is watch," said Jaspering, Small Diameter Bomb program manager for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. "An SDB will fly anywhere from six to 12 minutes, and we joke about never realizing we could hold our breath that long."

The anxiety of Hutcheson, the program's business development lead, and Jaspering seems unnecessary in view of the program's record, but it's one more sign of the energy and innovation going into the development of the Small Diameter Bomb system. With a potential worth of over $2 billion for Boeing, the system will increase the efficiency of military aircraft by allowing them to carry more weapons, thus enhancing mission effectiveness.

The St. Charles, Mo.-based program developed the system from a series of Phantom Works competitive programs conducted by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., as well as through McDonnell Douglas' (and later Boeing's) independent development efforts.

Why SDB is a big deal

Reduced size: The Small Diameter Bomb system's weapon, the GBU-39/B, weighs 285 pounds (129 kilograms) and is 71 inches (180 centimeters) in length and 7.5 inches (19 centimeters) in width/height (with wings stowed).
Carriage system:
The BRU-61/A system holds four weapons in the same space in which only one weapon is carried now.
Wings: "This is more of a glider than a bomb," said Dan Jaspering, Small Diameter Bomb program manager.
Thanks to its wings, the weapon can fly up to 60 miles from its release spot and cover a footprint with a 100-nautical-mile diameter. The combination of more weapons and range allows one aircraft to attack more targets per mission.
Cockpit-programmable fuze: This allows the pilot to change the weapon's detonation setting -above ground, on-impact or delayed-in case of a target change during the mission.
Low collateral damage: SDB is the right size "to take out that one room in one building, and not the whole neighborhood," said Don Hutcheson, SDB's business development lead. As with the Boeingmade Joint Direct Attack Munition, Global Positioning System guidance adds to the SDB's accuracy.
All-up-around system: Unlike larger bombs with different missions, SDB is not a kit requiring buildup in the field. "You open the box and put it on the aircraft," said Hutcheson.
Low cost: Price per weapon, with the carriage system amortized, averages to less than $40,000.






Boeing was awarded the program in October 2003, following a Component Advanced Development competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin in which Boeing demonstrated, through extensive testing, the low risk of fielding its SDB system in 2006.

The Air Force is expected to issue a low-rate production decision in April 2005, which would allow the Department of Defense to achieve an operational capability with SDB in fiscal year 2006. SDB will be fielded in two increments, the first focusing on stationary targets, with the Air Force as principal customer, and the second on moving targets, for the Air Force and U.S. Navy.

During Component Advanced Development, in addition to component qualification, captive carry, live fire and other tests, the program conducted either physical or electronic fit tests on all the external- and internal-bay aircraft the Air Force was thinking of using, including the F-15, F/A-22, F-16, B-1, B-2 and B-52. It also looked at the A-10, F-117, F-35 and Joint Unmanned Combat Air System air vehicles. "Too often that doesn't get worried about until later," Hutcheson said.

Such attentiveness is par for the course: With the customer asking for the system to be operational on the F-15 by 2006, the program is concentrating on upfront testing of everything associated with the system.

"We have a term, the 'go-fast program,' because of our emphasis on speed and execution," Jaspering said. "We went out to get the technical experts and trim down the size of the team as much as possible-to apply our limited resources to designing, building and testing hardware and not funding a large army of people.

"It creates some stress," Jaspering continued, "but it also makes the job more rewarding, because we do build and test a lot of stuff, and that's what engineers like to do."

The program is now in its System Development and Demonstration phase, building hardware and continuing a series of ground and flight tests at Eglin, White Sands, N.M., and China Lake, Calif. Hutcheson said it is difficult to find a land range large enough to accommodate SDB tests. Eglin's large water range has been the site of several tests, including one in which Eglin asked the SDB team to aim its weapon at an instrumented floating barge in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We put a hole in the middle of it for them," Hutcheson said.


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