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The US State Department has approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to Australia for GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II). 

The estimated cost is $815 million.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale, this is displayed below.

“The Government of Australia has requested a possible sale of up to three thousand nine hundred (3,900) GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb Increment II (SDB II), up to thirty (30) GBU-53/B Guided Test Vehicles (GTV), up to sixty (60) GBU-53/B Captive Carry Reliability Trainers (CCRT). 

Also included in this sale are Weapon Load Crew Trainers (WLCT), Practical Explosive Ordinance Disposal Trainers (PEST), containers, support and ground crew test equipment, site survey, transportation, warranties, repair and return, maintenance, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor representative engineering, logistics, and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.”

According to a press release, trhe US say this sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by ‘helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Western Pacific’.

The proposed sale of SDB II supports and complements the ongoing sale of the F-35A to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

“This capability will strengthen combined operations, particularly air to ground strike missions in all-weather conditions, and increase interoperability between the United States and the RAAF.  Australia will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The proposed sale will improve Australia’s F-35 survivability and will enhance its capability to deter global threats, strengthen its homeland defense and cooperate in coalition defense initiatives.”

The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, AZ.

24 COMMENTS

  1. The UK will procure SPEAR 3 instead of the GBU53.

    The SPEAR 3 has greater capability but is more expensive, the UK needs the SPEAR 3 to do well in export markets to justify the investment.

    • Yes. I read this and thought it a shame that SPEAR 3 isn’t close enough to being operational to have been able to compete in this market.

      In fairness they are slightly different weapons I think, SPEAR 3 trades warhead size for increased range and probably accuracy but against small moving targets SPEAR 3 should be amazing. If we ever get the soft-launch VLS system that MBDA has shown mock-up models and renders of that would also be a great extra capability for ships with only Sea Ceptor launchers potentially enabling precision land attack capabilities at > 100km range.

      • As I understand GBU53 will become operational on F35 once the the block 4 software is released, this is planned for 2022.

        Not sure what the F35 software requirements are for SPEAR 3.

        I agree SPEAR 3 should a highly rated weapon, just hope it achieves some exports. I think most nations going for the F35 will select GBU53 on grounds of cost.

        • Spear 3 is been integrated in block 4 software as well. Also spear has a bigger warhead and has more range than the GBU.

          • I thought it had a smaller warhead to accommodate the rocket motor and its fuel?

            ie: 9-10kg, just like Brimstone?

          • I think Joe is right in principle but might be off a bit in numerical terms. GBU warhead is 48kg so I’d be amazed if Spear 3 was that big because, as Joe says, the engine needs to be there. However 9-10kg like Brimstone might well not be the case because Spear 3 will be over twice the total weight of Brimstone (100kg vs 48.5kg according to Wikipedia) and all the sensors, electronics and batteries are already factored into the Brimstone weight (i.e. they won’t all get twice as heavy when put into Brimstone) so a reasonable guess is probably something like a 20 – 25kg warhead. If the turbojet in Spear 3 is more weight-efficient than the solid rocket in Brimstone (it does have wings after all to give a bit of lift) that might even edge up to the 30-ish kg mark. Unlikely to be as big as SDB/GBU53 but likely not as small as Brimstone.

            There’s a good writeup on Spear 3 here by the way: http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/uk-complex-weapons/spear-capability-3/

      • Faster = harder to shoot down and less time to target. Longer range means outside range of AA missiles. Power means can be launched off boresight and option I think of terrain following trajectory. Also Spear 3 might have man in the loop precision targeting and abort functions ( not sure) and if it has the Brimstone seeker each member of a salvo will seek out an individual target from a moving group e.g. Convoy of mobile AA launchers. Not sure SDB has these features.

  2. It’s questionable if the SDB has enough stand off range against modern AA systems. It’s a glider so in head winds or when released at low altitude, the range is poor. Spear 3 is powered.

  3. It doesn’t matter if Spear3 is better or not. This is 3900 sales units less.

    Brimstone is very good but I don’t think we’ve exported that. Export successes will only come if there are no similar products at a cheaper price, which is why the T26 won’t sell because FREM is about as good and half the price.

  4. A reminder that next year USN is to integrate SDB2 to F-18E/F and by inference to EF-18G both of which are operated by RAAF. As RAAF tries to keep its F-18Fs and EF-18G as common as possible to USN the RAAF choice of SDB2 was a no-brainer.

  5. that is a lot of fairly specialist role bombs for a smallish country like Australia and one that isn’t normally heavily involved in every conflict going unlike the UK. I can’t see close to £1b order being placed by the RAF for spear3.

    • Smallish country? Sounds like a very 20th century view. Think you need to get up to speed on modern Australia and its modern day growth and Asia-Pacific geopolitics a little more. Perhaps check your history too..Australia has been almost in every conflict UK has and unlike UK we were in Vietnam too,

      Australia if anything is a benchmark to cousins the U.K. and Canada (latter especially an interesting comparable; 1/3 more GDP and population than Australia but with a weaker military). Set reasonable, achievable aims for its military, recognise regional risks and more importantly trying (at times imperfectly) be prepared to spend and follow through. I think we have the 3rd biggest F35 order after USA and U.K. Another small example, we are fully prepared (no debates like UK) to potentially buy 9x Type 26 frigates (UK 8x planned I believe afer much angst) if they make the grade vs other competitors.

  6. The RAAF has arguably the most versatile range of air to surface attack weapons of any airforce its size (a Swiss army knife approach) including capabilities not available in the RAF’s arsenal, such as Harpoon for maritime strike and HARM anti-radiation missile.

    In addition to conventional ‘dumb’ bombs (Mark 82, 83, 84) and precision guided weapons JDAM (GBU-31, 32, 38, 54) and Paveway II (GBU-10, 12, 16) it has a range of stand-off options:

    JASSM AGM-158A (370 km range, 450 kg warhead)

    Harpoon AGM-84 (220 km air launched, 221 kg)

    HARM AGM-88B, 88E (150 km, 66 kg; 300 km, 66 kg)

    JSOW AGM-154C Block III (130 km, BROACH warhead approx. 300 kg)

    JDAM ER (72km wing glide kit, 2,000 lbs, 1,000 lbs, 500 lbs)

    SDB II GBU-53B (72 km, 93 kg)

  7. Also nearly 3000 odd SDB I GBU-39B acquired last year.

    And no official announcement yet, but you can bet good money that the Joint Strike Missile will be added to the list in the near future. Australia is chipping in some funding and the passive RF seeker.

    Only really missing a proper extended range cruise missile.

  8. Agree the JSM will almost certainly be added to the RAAF inventory partly because the ADF is co-funding the development of the RF seeker with Konesberg but also because the JSM can be internally carried in the RAAF’s F35 giving them an advanced stealthy maritime strike capability.

    Unlike the RAF, maritime strike has been a core capability for the RAAF for the last couple of decades with the Harpoon being able to be launched from multiple platforms (F111, APC3, FA18A and more recently FA18F and P8).

    The JASSM ER would be the most likely contender for a long range cruise missile extending the JASSM’s range from 370km out to over 1,000km. You’d have to think that integration would be fairly straight forward given that JASSM is already in service, maybe not much more than finding the budget and an FMS buy from the US.

    The fact that JASSM ER forms the donor platform for the USN’s LRASM replacement for Harpoon (and by default the RAN’s likely Harpoon successor- capable of launching from a Mk41 VLS) wouldn’t do its chances any harm either.

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