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F-35 Stealth Fighters Get 1000th F-135s; Now One Step Closer To Integrate ‘Deadly’ StormBreaker Missiles

The US Navy, in collaboration with Raytheon, recently carried out two StormBreaker smart weapon-guided test vehicle releases from an F-35B Lightning II at .9 Mach, bringing the F-35 one step closer to receiving a major weapons upgrade. 

On September 19, Raytheon Missiles & Defense, in a statement, announced that these trials represent the F-35’s fastest release to date and conclude a seven-shot rate capture series, allowing “the F-35B test program to move onto weapon capability testing.”

The two weapons, which were deployed within 30 minutes of one another during the testing, successfully released and executed the necessary flight patterns, Raytheon said. 

“No other fielded air-to-surface weapon can accomplish what StormBreaker can against complex targets in contested environments,” said Paul Ferraro, president of Air Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. 

Additionally, he emphasized that tests like this advance the process of integrating StormBreaker into fifth-generation platforms in an effort to provide U.S. and allied warfighters with this critical capability as soon as possible. 

The Stormbreaker, formerly known as the “Small Diameter Bomb II” or SDB II, is an air-launched glide bomb developed by Raytheon Missile Systems for a range of multi-role American aircraft. This particularly involves the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and the F-35 fighter jets.

F-35 fighter jet

With its cutting-edge multimode seeker and potent, multi-effects payload, StormBreaker can hit stationary and moving targets more than 45 miles distant with extreme flexibility and effectiveness.

In addition, the weapon has a larger loadout than legacy munitions, opening up the possibility of hitting more targets in a single sortie.

In 2022, the US Air Force announced that the StormBreaker on the F-15E Strike Eagle had achieved Initial Operating Capability. The integration roadmap for the program calls for continued extension to more manned and unmanned platforms, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet of the US Navy. 

According to the manufacturer, a total of 20 munitions, or five groups of four StormBreaker smart weapons, can be carried by an F-15E. The F-15EX Strike Eagle II is capable of carrying up to 16 StormBreaker weapons, depending on the mission.

The USAF granted Raytheon $144 million in 2006 for risk reduction work on the weapon as part of the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II program, which marked the beginning of the 25-year StormBreaker development phase.

After three years of work, Raytheon received a $450 million StormBreaker “engineering, manufacturing, and development” contract from the air force in 2010. Raytheon was given a $200 million life cycle support contract by the USAF in 2019 that covered the “integration, production, and sustainment” of the Stormbreaker through 2024.

The munition has a tri-mode seeker, which incorporates imaging infrared and millimeter-wave radar, according to Raytheon, to “see through fog, smoke, and rain to glide over 45 miles (72 km) and strike at a fixed or moving target on land or at sea.”  

The munition is loaded with “shape charge jets, fragmentation and blast charge effects” and is capable of destroying a tank, Raytheon said.

Pratt & Whitney Delivers 1,000th F135 Dngine

Pratt & Whitney celebrated the delivery of the 1,000th F135 engine for the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II fighter. The business shared a video of the facility where its employees are assembling the engine on its social media channels. 

Pratt & Whitney tweeted, “one thousand F135 production engines for the F-35 Lightning II delivered. The F135 is the most advanced fighter engine ever fielded, providing a step change in capability and dependability.”

“The 1,000th F135 delivery is a testament to the hard work of thousands of P&W employees and hundreds of suppliers who play a vital role in every engine that comes off the production line,” said Jen Latka, vice president for the F135 program in a statement released on August 31, 2022.

“As the only 5th Generation fighter engine in production today, the F135 provides the warfighter with a critical technological advantage.” 

Pratt & Whitney F135 – Wikipedia

The F135 engine, which developed from the F119 that powers the F-22 Raptor, offers a significant improvement in performance over the earlier generation of engines. Pratt & Whitney is in charge of manufacturing the engines that power all three models of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft. In 2009, the company delivered the first production engine. 

The F135 also has plenty of design room to expand for future F-35 missions. P&W’s proposed F-35 block upgrade, known as the Enhanced Engine Package (EEP), provides the quickest, most cost-effective, and least risk path to fully enabled Block 4 capability for all F-35 operators.

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