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MBDA presents the new SmartGlider family of guided weapons which they say are optimised to counter ‘anti-access strategies’ and other emerging threats.

Planned to become available for fast jets no later than 2025, SmartGlider forms a family of all-up-round glider weapons, with folding wings and a range of over 100km. MBDA say this new generation of air-to-ground weapons is designed to counter new networked short and medium range surface-to-air threats, as well as moving/relocatable targets or hardened fixed targets.

According to a press release:

“The compact family member, SmartGlider Light, is 2 meters long and weighs 120kg. 12 to 18 SmartGlider Lights can be carried on an aircraft thanks to a Hexabomb Smart Launcher. As such, the SmartGlider Light will allow first-day-entry by saturating and destroying enemy air defences.

For general purpose missions, the SmartGlider Light can be engaged against a wide spectrum of targets, from hardened and defended fixed targets such as hangars, to relocatable targets that can only be destroyed from a standoff distance with significant lethal effects.”

Last, MBDA also discussed a 1,300kg SmartGlider Heavy able to carry a multipurpose warhead of more than 1,000 kg to deal with large and hardened infrastructure.

François Moussez, MBDA Military Adviso said:

“The SmartGlider family considerably reinforces the air-to-ground capabilities of the combat platform, sitting between the bombs equipped with guidance kits and cruise missiles.

Designed for use in high volumes in order to saturate ai defences, SmartGliders are gliders that, thanks to a high lift-to-drag ratio and their integrated guidance and navigation, will feature a range of over 100 km allowing the combat platform to stay at safe distance from the enemy defences.”

Lionel Mazenq, Business Development Manager France said:

“Our SmartGliders will integrate new technologies in their guidance and navigation functions, as well as multipurpose warheads.

Thus, they will be able to reach and destroy the best defended targets, notably enemy air defences, thanks to a mix of optronics and radio frequency sensors that makes them robust against anti-access measures.”

Antoine Bouvier, CEO of MBDA said:

“Throughout thirty years of work on the SCALP/Storm Shadow and now on future deep strike, MBDA has gained an in-depth understanding of penetrative missions in hostile territory.

We have therefore been able to optimise the costs of the aircraft and missile combination and succeeded in designing a truly efficient weapon for use in high volumes that perfectly complements the SCALP/Storm Shadow and its future follow-on FC/ASW that we are developing through Anglo-French cooperation.”

17 COMMENTS

  1. The light version is going to have tough competition from SDB. Given that F-35 integration has already been planned for SDB I wonder if/when this would get onto that already crowded roadmap for F-35 integration plus SDB already exists.

    I wonder how MBDA are going to position this vs SDB. I suppose it’s down to that bit about countering “anti access strategies”. I wonder what that is. I would hope that it doesn’t make it more expensive than SDB though because in the sort of battle spaces that we’ve been working in in the last decade or so that hasn’t really been a big issue.

    • It will likely have near identical characteristics to SPEAR 3, which I believe is already expected to integrate with F35.

  2. So, an SDB-2 then.

    Makes sense, they already make the gliding wing kits for the US bombs anyway.

    Pretty smart to have both a powered supersonic missile & a slower glide bomb in the same family of weapons.

    • I suppose. And what SmartGlider will be to SCALP/Storm-Shadow/FC-ASW, SmartGlider-Light will be to SPEAR 3. The graphic already looks very like Spear 3 renders.

      I’m OK with SmartGlider but I still worry about the Light version getting the integration funds, orders and attention it needs with SDB already out there.

      • Indeed…. the SDB family have many years head start & are fairly cheap.
        (around $60k for a SDB-1 including the foreign military sales markup)

        I doubt MBDA will get many orders for it (perhaps the Gulf states?).
        But an interesting offering nonetheless.

  3. Strange old world, Remember the days when you could bolt an underwing bomb rack and turn any aircraft into a bomber of sorts? The costs of developing, purchasing and commissioning these weapons is often outweighed by their cost/benefit in most of the wars being fought today when a couple of fighters in a converted truck carrying a machine gun are tackled with a hugely expensive missile system. Are we looking at “expensive toys” rather than cheap but effective alternatives? I don’t know the answer, just asking the question.

    • Part of the same family I think. This is an unpowered glide bomb. Spear 3 will have an engine (a turbojet) so quite a different beast and still going ahead as planned I hope. I’m quite excited about Spear 3 and in fairness this SmartGlider looks good to, except for my reservations re potential commercial success and breadth of platform integration for the light version due to Raytheon’s SDB already being on the playing field.

      Perhaps another similar little family (little being the operative word because these ones are a step-change down in size) would be the Thales LMM (otherwise known as Martlet) and the FFLMM (free-fall LMM) which is an unpowered version of the LMM. Not a glide bomb in this case, it doesn’t have wings, but another example of powered and unpowered variants of a very similar weapon.

      • Your right yeah about Spear 3 nonetheless i can see us british and france use this weapons, cause it look’s like be a joint cooperation between to two country, Like FC/ASW and other Heavy version of LMM.

        • I hope you’re right because I do like these things and having a European variant of SDB and a heavier version too would really round out our home-grown arsenal and, if it goes as well as Brimstone/Spear-3, has a good chance of being superior to the US offerings. My big concern though is F-35B integration because there already seem to be issues with fitting Spear 3 and Meteor integration into the schedule – they’re both there but in later blocks of the software updates than I would like. Adding the two SmartGlider variants into the mix leaves another two integration slots that we need to find space for in the schedule. I also note that your observation about the Anglo-French angle (which has in the past and still is creating some really world class complex weapons) doesn’t help that much re F35 integration since only one of the partners (the UK) really needs that. If they get more European orders from the likes of Italy, Norway, Netherlands etc that might put more impetus behind F35 integration without the UK needing to pay for it all.

          • although you’re right on spear 3 that it power and not glider, i still think that the light version is spear 3, because Spear 3 enters service the same time and We British requirements do change depending on funding and others things , just look at the type 26 frigate that was redesign couple of time’s and now that’s expense , but again i could be wrong. i think heavy version is the joint French and British FC/ASW that’s although that’s not glider, but again could be wrong, lets just wait until more information comes out.

          • or like you said we could be build european version of SBD.
            and if these are different what are they replace in our French and Royal air force? thats what i want to know, cause the only weapon i know are going to replace is the brimstone 2 missile with spear 3 in british air force by 2025 and i know french was interested in buying brimstone back in 2011 and i think it still does that’s why i said it could be these weapons

  4. A saturation style attack is probably the only way to get through modern air defence. The question is whether such a system could also work for ASW. Could a number of smaller missiles cause enough damage to defeat a warship, I guess yes if they could target in on the ships radar.

    • Even the Lite version probably isn’t going to be that light in terms of warhead. Don’t forget that these are glide bombs with no engines in them so a far higher percentage of the overall weight can go to the warhead compared to missiles such as Brimstone, Spear 2 or NSM.

      The SmartGlider Lite (SGL) is said in the article to be about 120kg. Raytheon’s SDB is about 129kg with a 93kg warhead so scaling the numbers would give about an 86kg warhead but, given that SGL will be a more modern design it wouldn’t surprise me if they could optimise weight in the rest of it a bit more than SDB with a decade later materials science and electronics to get closer to 90kg on the warhead. To put that into context, Brimstone has a 6kg warhead, Spear 3 will probably be in the 15kg – 20kg range, and NSM has a 125kg warhead. Even SGL which is the one applicable to saturation attacks is going to be closer to an NSM hit than a Spear 3 or Brimstone hit. I would have thought that it should be able to make one hell of a mess of most things topside without even needing a sub-1m accuracy to very precisely hit a radar mast.

  5. It’s all about finding a target and then how big or mobile that target is.

    A vehicle mounted SAM launcher for instance found with a drone should probably be hit there and then by the drone itself. You won’t need lots of range because your drone is already in visual range and you will want confirmation afterwards so you will keep it nearby. You also don’t need a massive warhead because the target is explosive, so a LMM or FFLMM will do. Same story for a pickup truck mounted cannon or even a tank should your drone be lucky enough to find one and have a Brimstone on board as well.

    If the target is anything requiring a big warhead then it’s almost certainly a building. In which case it isn’t going anywhere so a long range glide bomb is great. However we should think carefully because unless it’s an aircraft hangar, the building is just a building and probably not a threat, especially if it is a long way away.

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