officials insist the Small-Diameter Bomb II, a sophisticated weapon for the Pentagon designed to destroy moving targets, will be ready for production in 2014 despite a delay in the development project.
The SDB II is being readied for a second guided-test-vehicle flight trial this month after a successful, albeit delayed, first shot in July.
During the July 17 test, the 250-lb. glide bomb used two of three modes in the complex trimode seeker—the imaging-infrared and millimeter-wave radar—to engage a ground target moving at “operationally relevant” speeds, says John O'Brien, Raytheon's SDB II program director. These two modes, used in concert, are considered the most complicated pieces of the tri-mode seeker, thus the early focus on proving these elements.
The SDB II is also being designed to operate with the BRU-61 bomb rack used for the first version of the SDB, a penetrating version of the weapon designed to have GPS and inertial guidance and a 40-nm range.builds SDB, but the company—teamed with —lost the contract to Raytheon to build the moving-target version. Using the BRU-61 carriage system, the Air Force can place four SDBs of either type in a single position typically occupied by a 1,000- or 2,000-lb. , quadrupling the number of targets that can be struck with a single or sortie.
The test delay—moving it from January to July—was primarily driven by immaturity of the systems integration laboratory facility needed to support testing leading up to the demonstration, O'Brien said. Some of the software, hardware and computer in-the-loop bench testers were still being developed in January, according to Maj. Gen. Kenneth Merchant, Air Force program executive officer for weapons. “The sequence is getting better. We are focused on that,” O'Brien adds.
Additionally, there were some software delays, Harry Schulte, vice president of air warfare systems, told Aviation Week during this summer's Farnborough air show outside London.
Although some program milestones are also delayed, owing to the late first flight, O'Brien says the team is still focused on achieving production readiness in 2014, but he concedes that a major system verification review, set for next summer, will be a challenge to execute by fall 2013.
Ultimately, however, there is “significant margin” to completing the first deliveries for the, scheduled for July 2016, O'Brien notes.
The test did prove that flight performance matched the simulation developed for predictive analysis, a key achievement, Merchant says. Additionally, the cooperative use of two sensors and associated tracker algorithms are “first-time events and breaking new ground,” he notes.
Raytheon won the $450 million, fixed-price development contract for SDB II two years ago. O'Brien did not provide specifics on how detrimental the delay is to the program's profitability, though he noted that the company is “within our business margins.”
officials now estimate that the program at completion will cost $453.4 million. Raytheon's performance remains high on the program despite a slight downward trend owing to the delay, service officials say. The company has been paid $168.7 million. Of that, $47.5 million is for performance-based milestones. The remainder covers progress payments.
The work on SDB II, however, could prove fruitful for Raytheon in other areas. Its progress refining the trimode seeker is directly benefitting the company's position on the Army's Joint-Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) program. Under that project, the Army hopes to replace its Hellfire, Maverick and Tube-launched, Optically-tracked and Wire-guided (TOW) missiles with a single platform. Originally scoped as a weapon requiring a trimode seeker, the Army recently struck the imaging infrared from the near-term plan.
The Army provided Lockheed Martin with a $64.15 million, 27-month contract to extend technology development of a dual-mode seeker that employs the semi-active laser and millimeter-wave radar sensors. Integrating the imaging infrared sensor proved troublesome. “It was unaffordable,” says Ken Musculus, Lockheed Martin director of air-to-ground missiles. “It turns out that [imaging IR] drives a lot of the cost within the seeker.”
Raytheon, meanwhile, is pushing the Army to drop the dual-mode effort and skip directly to a tri-mode JAGM. The company would use the same seeker now in testing for SDB II.
“We think the right answer is not to back up . . . not after spending more than $900 million” on this technology, says J.R. Smith, JAGM business development director, noting the total amount spent by the Pentagon in developing technologies for JAGM, including the earlier Joint Common Missile program.
USAF is planning for 11 flight tests of SDB II leading up to the January 2014 production decision, O'Brien says.