Raytheon has confirmed the first successful guided release of a StormBreaker smart weapon from a US Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, ahead of the missile’s planned integration into the F-15E Eagle and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
No, it isn't the Marvel superhero's axe, forged in the heart of a dying star, it is however the latest generation of guided missile that will enhance the lethality of both the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
During the US Navy flight test, StormBreaker safely separated from the jet and successfully received guidance data from the plane, enabling it to be directed to its target while in flight.
The weapon’s seeker works in three modes to provide maximum operational flexibility:
- Millimetre wave radar detects and tracks targets through weather;
- Imaging infrared provides enhanced target discrimination; and
- Semi-active laser enables the weapon to track an airborne laser designator or one on the ground.
The tri-mode seeker shares targeting information among all three modes, enabling StormBreaker to engage fixed or moving targets at any time of day and in all weather conditions.
Cristy Stagg, StormBreaker program director, explained, "StormBreaker is the only weapon that enables pilots to hit moving targets during bad weather or if dust and smoke are in the area."
The StormBreaker smart weapon gives operators an upper hand in combat by hitting moving targets in some of the worst weather conditions. The winged munition autonomously detects and classifies moving targets in poor visibility situations caused by darkness, bad weather, smoke or dust kicked up by helicopters.
StormBreaker's small size enables the use of fewer aircraft to take out the same number of targets as larger weapons that require multiple jets. The weapon can also fly more than 45 miles to strike mobile targets, reducing the amount of time that aircrews spend in harm's way.
The US Air Force and US Navy have begun StormBreaker smart weapon integration activities on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense completed development and integration on the F-15E Strike Eagle in April 2018.
Poor weather and battlefield obscurants continue to endanger warfighters as adversaries rely on these conditions to escape attacks. This has established the requirement for an all-weather solution that enhances warfighters' capabilities when visibility is limited.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense produces a broad portfolio of advanced technologies, including air and missile defence systems, precision weapons, radars, and command and control systems – delivering end-to-end solutions to detect, track and engage threats.
Headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, the business generated $16 billion in pro forma annual revenue in 2019 and has 30,000 employees globally. Raytheon Missiles & Defense is one of four businesses that form Raytheon Technologies Corporation.