WASHINGTON — After conducting a third test launch of the ground-launched small diameter bomb this month, Boeing and Saab now believe they have the data necessary to move the munition into production, company officials said Monday.
Next, the focus moves to nailing down a first customer for the munition.
With the U.S. Army focused on its Long Range Precision Fires program — which could see the service field a ground-based missile capable of striking targets up to 499 kilometers away — Boeing and Saab see international militaries as the most probable market for the ground-launched small diameter bomb, or GLSDB, which has a range of 150 kilometers.
“I think with this type of creative solution, it really fits across a broader customer set because we’re taking an existing capability, maximizing it and creating an opportunity [for those] that don’t have the ability to have a robust air force,” Jim Leary, Boeing’s director of global sales and marketing for its weapons portfolio, said during a briefing at the Association for the U.S. Army’s annual conference. “We’re looking mostly for us to help the U.S. military’s partners and grow some partner capacity.”
Several European countries have expressed interest in the capability, added Svein Daae, Saab’s director of business management for missile systems.
The GLSDB brings together Boeing’s GBU-39B small diameter bomb with the M26 rocket — an unguided cluster munition that has largely been phased out by militaries.
Boeing and Saab have positioned GLSDB as a low-cost option for countries looking for a precision weapon to replace cluster munitions, particularly for those that do not have large air forces capable of using the air-launched SDB.
The munition fits into a standard launch container and could be fired from the Multiple Launch Rocket System, used by several U.S. allies and partner nations.
The companies first fired the GLSDB in 2015, testing the integration of the GBU-39 and M26 rocket. Another launch, in 2017, validated the guidance system of the weapon, Daae said.
The latest test, which occurred at Andøya Test Center in Andenes, Norway, verified that the system could hit a target 130 kilometers away, Daae said. It was also used to collect detailed flight data, as well as measure the weapon’s impact on the launch container.
Valerie Insinna was Defense News' air warfare reporter. Beforehand, she worked the Navy and congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.