U.S. TACTICAL AIRPOWER IS IN THE PROCESS OF BECOMING SIGNIFICANTLY MORE LETHAL
THE REASON IS THE FIELDING OF THE SMALL DIANETER BOMB II—A HIGHLY ACCURATE WEAPON THAT CAN BE LAUNCHED FROM UP TO 45 MILES AWAY—AND HIT AND DESTROY A MOVING TARGET
The tactical advantages of this weapon are much greater than is readily apparent. Let me list them:
- SURVIVABILITY. Depending on the speed and altitude of the aircraft, this glide bomb can be launched from as far away as 45 nautical miles. That removes the aircraft from most ground threats. In effect, an aircraft can bomb with near impunity providing the enemy lacks airpower and heaver ground to air missiles. That lack cannot be taken for granted. The Russians and Chinese, for instance, have both. Nonetheless, most of the enemies we face currently—like ISIS—have neither (in any significant volume).
- ACCURACY: The SDB-II uses jam-resistant GPS/INS targeting like Boeing’s GBU-39 SDB-I, but its added seeker features 3 modes of operation: semi-active laser, millimeter-wave radar, and uncooled imaging infrared. By combining these 3 modes, the GBU-53 can have excellent performance against a variety of target types, under any weather conditions, while making it much more difficult to use countermeasures or decoys successfully: It is capable of near pinpoint accuracy—1 meter CEP. That is remarkable.
- FLEXIBILITY: The weapons can be re-targeted in flight.
- MULTI-TARGET WARHEAD: The GBU-53 contains a warhead from General Dynamics Ordnance & Tactical Systems that delivers shaped charge, blast and fragmentation effects all at once. A scored blast and fragmentation warhead makes it deadly against buildings and people as well.
- MOVING TARGET DESTRUCTION: This is a major advance on capability because it means that even main battle tanks moving at speed can be destroyed.
- COLLATERAL DAMAGE MINIMISED: This is an extremely destructive weapon—in that it can destroy both heavy armor and penetrate 3 feet of steel reinforced concrete, but its blast radius is limited because of its relatively small explosive charge. It uses DIME—Dense Inert Metal Explosive which consists of a homogeneous mixture of an explosive material (such as phlegmatized HMX or RDX) and small particles of a chemically inert material such as tungsten. It is intended to limit the distance at which the explosion causes damage, to avoid collateral damage in warfare. DIME is controversial, nonetheless, in that its micro-shrapnel is difficult to remove and can be carcinogenic.
- RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE: In the days when many missiles cost close to $1 million—or even more, the SDB ll may be considered a bargain at a fraction of that.
- A SINGLE AIRCRAFT CAN CARRY THESE IN QUANTITY: For most of history, fighter-bombers have been decidedly limited in the quantity of bombs they have been able to carry. For instance, a bomb load of two 2,000 pound bombs would not be uncommon. In contrast, a single aircraft can carry SDB IIs in quantity. Each bomb weighs 208 lbs and carries a 105 lb explosive warhead with both blast-frag and plasma-jet capability. An F-35 can carry eight SDB IIs internally (thus keeping it stealthy). If external pods are included, reportedly, an F-35 could carry 24 (or more) depending on the other weapons carried
The successful development of the SDB II should lead to a re-evaluation of U.S. military doctrine in that smaller teams of ground forces—when fully supported from the air—should be become both more survivable and capable.
However, what should happen and what does happen are two different things. The Air Force remains remarkably reluctant to get fully behind the CAS mission—and the Army seems incapable of forcing the issue and achieving the necessary evolution of custom and practice.
Failure to integrate ground and air forces has been a festering sore since WW II—and cries out for a solution.
Will one be found?
Don’t hold your breath.
VOR words 580.