New, smaller bomb enhances capabilities

The developmental test team from VX-23 conducts carriage envelope expansion with Small Diameter Bomb II at NAS Patuxent River. The smaller warhead provides advanced guidance and enhanced precision to strike pilots.

Another bomb for the inventory with a smaller warhead—is it even worth it, you might ask? For Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) II, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

The weapon that will keep sharpening our air wing’s spear comes equipped with deployable wings and various advanced guidance modes. The wings allow aircrew greater standoff, and in today’s complex battlefield, the smaller warhead teamed with more precise guidance will allow surgical precision to minimize collateral damage concerns.

SDB II comes as an all-up round out of the box with a Tri-Mode seeker allowing three primary modes of employment—Coordinate Attack, Laser Illuminated Attack and Normal Attack—that utilizes the seeker’s millimeter wave radar and imaging infrared tracker to locate and engage moving targets through all weather conditions. The warhead is specifically designed for effects against soft targets, armor and maritime targets.

The VX-23 F/A-18 Air Vehicle Store Compatibility test team is working tirelessly to get this next generation weapon to frontline fighters this year.

Testing to clear the carriage and jettison envelope continues steadily, even amid the global health pandemic. Full-scale employments began late spring and will continue through summer against a vast array of targets.

In conjunction with VX-31, the test plan employs SDB II against multiple moving maritime targets while buddy-lasing with both other F/A-18 and F-35 wingmen.

With each test employment, SDB II is getting closer to Initial Operational Capability. While the SDB II will be operational soon, aspiring testers wishing to join this hard-charging test team can rest assured there is plenty of weapons integration work for the F/A-18A-G for years to come. Though each weapon test event uses similar methods, they are all very challenging and rewarding and—most importantly—keep us a step ahead of our adversaries.