December 18, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Engineers at the McDonnell Douglas subsidiary of the Boeing Co. in St. Louis are starting tests to integrate the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb on the U.S. Air Force F-22A fighter bomber, as well as on the F-16 block 30, 40, and 50.
A Small Diameter Bomb seen here on an F-16
Today the 250-pound (110 kg) smart bomb is fitted to the F-15E fighter bomber. The F-22A currently can carry only 1,000 pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM
) bombs, but eventually will be able to carry eight Small Diameter Bombs.
Eventually Air Force experts plan to equip the B-2 long-range strategic bomber to carry as many as 216 Small Diameter Bombs on each mission.
McDonnell Douglas is doing the Small Diameter Bomb test work under terms of a $13 million contract modification awarded Dec. 15. The contract came from the Air Force 308th Armament Systems Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
The contract calls for McDonnell Douglas to provide test assets in support of aircraft and weapon integration of the Small Diameter Bomb on the F-16 block 30
, F-16 Block 40/50, F-22A, and maintain interoperability on the F-15E. The company also will test the universal armament interface for the Small Diameter Bomber II program. Work will be in St. Louis, and is to be finished in August 2008.
GBU-39 variant of the Small Diameter Bomb has guidance from the satellite Global Positioning System (GPS
), as well as from an inertial gyro. The future GBU-40 variant will have a terminal seeker with automatic target recognition capabilities for mobile and relocatable targets.
The bomb measures 5.9 feet long and weighs 285 pounds, and is to increases the number of weapons an aircraft can carry, as well as reduce collateral damage. The bomb has a range of more than 60 miles, and can operate in bad weather.
The weapon was first deployed with the U.S. Air Force last year and made its combat debut in Iraq
in Ocotober 2006.