Last Updated 8 October, 2003
JANE'S DEFENCE WEEKLY - MAY 31, 2000
CRAIG HOYLE JDW Staff Reporter
The USA's future small smart bomb (SSB) has completed supersonic wind-tunnel tests at Arnold Air Force Base (AFB), Tennessee, before its first deployment from a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) General Dynamics F-111 bomber later this year.
The next phase of the research project is due to take place from Edinburgh Air Base in South Australia in October or November. It will mark the first deployment of the 250lb (113kg) SSB from a supersonic strike platform's internal bomb bay.
Boeing's SSB is designed to match the destructive power of current 2,000lb precision-guided weapons, such as the BLU-109/B equipped with the company's Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kit. It is intended to arm stealthy assets such as the US Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-117 and F-22 Raptor fighters. The US-UK Joint Strike Fighter is also likely to deploy the weapon, which could also prove attractive for future tactical unmanned air vehicle designs.
Capable of penetrating through 1.8m of reinforced concrete before detonating its 50lb high-explosive warhead, the 6in (15cm) diameter SSB will be used to destroy high-value targets, including buried command posts and aircraft concealed within hardened shelters.
The design is not expected to enter service until around 2007 given funding approval, according to Ken Lockwood, SSB programme manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate at Eglin AFB, Florida.
A 1/15th-scale model of an F-111 and a SSB underwent 12 hours of 'air-on' testing in a 4ft transonic wind tunnel at the Arnold Engineering Development Centre at Arnold AFB on 8-11 May.
The trials included aircraft separation studies at speeds of up to M1.3. Facility officials described initial test results as matching predictions formed from earlier modelling. Full results of the aerodynamic trajectory evaluations will be made available to programme officials in mid-July. While Australia has no current plans to acquire an SSB-type weapon, the RAAF is interested in continuing its role in the development study, said Glen Ackroid of the aircraft stores compatibility unit at the service's Aircraft Research and Development Unit, Edinburgh.
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