A Boeing concept photo of the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb. (The Boeing Co.)
WASHINGTON — Boeing is developing a way to turn the air-launched Small Diameter Bomb into a ground-launched artillery rocket.
The company-funded project could add new capabilities to the US Army arsenal, allowing the service to carry out strike missions traditionally conducted by air forces.
Boeing is developing a device called an inter-stage adapter, which would connect the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) to the M26 rocket.
Due to the cluster bomb ban, the Army is demilitarizing the M26 rocket. The US military has hundreds of thousands of MLRS rockets that must go through this demilitarization process.
Instead of destroying the rocket, the installation of a special adapter case could allow it to propel a Small Diameter Bomb into the air. Leveraging the existing M26 rockets, which could save the Army money from procuring new rocket systems, Boeing officials say.
After being fired from the ground, the SDB would separate from the rocket and the bomb would head toward a target just like it would if it were dropped from a strike aircraft.
The SBD is a glide weapon, meaning it deploys wings in flight and flies to its target.
This “gives you the ability to attack targets on a reverse slope, so I can hit behind a mountain side, also I could reach inside a cave,” said Chris Laski of Boeing’s business development team.
“That’s a capability you traditionally wouldn’t have in a rocket artillery and you’d look for the Air Force to do,” he said at the annual Association of the United States Army convention.
The 250-pound SDB is an air-launched, precision strike weapon. It can be carried on nearly all US strike and bomber aircraft.
A ground-lunched version could give the Army more capability using existing systems, Boeing officials say.
“It reduces the burden on airpower and it could save your larger munitions for strategic targets,” Laski said.
The system would also be compatible with other versions of the Boeing-built SDB, such as the laser-guided SDB and the Focused Lethality Munition.
The company has completed design work of the inter-stage adapter and intends to conduct ground and flight testing.