The US Air Force intends to award Boeing a contract to develop and test a new laser-guided version of its 113kg (250lb) small diameter bomb (SDB).
The company says that the weapons can carry out many of the functions of Raytheon GBU-53/B SDB II, which has a tri-mode seeker with millimetre wave radar, infrared, and semi-active laser guidance capabilities, at far lower cost. The new weapon is based on Boeing's laser joint direct attack munition (JDAM) technology.
"This contract is for phase one part two engineering, integration and test, and production support and a Laser Small Diameter Bomb (LSDB) Weapon Simulator," Boeing says.
LSDB is designed to strike moving and maritime targets.
The weapon, which uses the same semi-active laser sensor as the JDAM, allows for its aim point to be precisely adjusted while it is still in flight.
Those adjustments are accomplished by using standard laser designation equipment operated by US forces, Boeing says. Further, because the semi-active laser sensor is the exact same one as used on the JDAM, the annual production rate is increased and therefore results in lowered prices for both programmes, the company says.
Boeing says that while the LSDB covers many of the SDB II missions at a much lower cost, it does not have the Raytheon-built weapons' capability to engage targets in zero-visibility weather. The SDB II seeker uses the millimetre wave radar to see targets through the rain or obscured by smoke or dust.