Raptor Performs First Drop of Small Diameter Bomb

F-22 EMD aircraft #91-4008 drops an SDB during a test mission in R2508 on 9/5/07.
Photo: USAF / Darin Russell

9/25/2007 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA -- The F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force conducted the first airborne separation of a small diameter bomb from the internal weapons bay of an F-22 here Sept. 5.

"This is a major milestone for the F-22 modernization roadmap," said Lt. Col. Daniel Daetz, 411th Flight Test Squadron commander.

The drop was made to ensure that the SDB would have a clean separation when released from the Raptor.

"The test proved that our predictions were modeled properly," said Maj. Jack Fischer, 411th Flight Test Squadron test pilot. "The bomb came out exactly as it should have for the first test, so we're on the right track."

Testing of the SDB with the F-22 is part of the Increment 3.1 upgrade to the aircraft, Major Fischer said.

Once the SDB is cleared for operational missions aboard the F-22, it will enable the aircraft to carry four times the weapons load, Major Fischer said. The F-22 can carry eight SDBs with two advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

"Instead of taking two Joint Direct Attack Munitions, we can carry eight SDBs," he said. "It also increases our range considerably. The SDB envelope will be the highest and fastest of currently fielded Air Force weapons."

Carrying the SDB internally is important to maintaining the Raptor's stealth because external weapons could be picked up by radar, said Bill Kuhlemeier, Lockheed Martin chief flight test engineer. However, the requirement presents unique challenges.

"I think the real question for us is what challenges are there associated with carrying weapons internally," Major Fischer said. "No other aircraft can release a supersonic weapon out of an internal weapons bay. The flow field and shock wave interactions present a very complex challenge. Whether it's air-to-air or air-to-ground, we're still dealing with those same factors."

The F-22 was not originally designed for air-to-ground operations, Mr. Kuhlemeier said.

"We have to learn how much we can get away with while inducing loads on an aircraft that wasn't designed to carry bombs at first," he said. "We're finding ways to overcome that by making the Raptor stronger for the different missions."

The CTF's future flight test plans include expanding the Raptor's delivery envelope to the full capability of the aircraft, Mr. Kuhlemeier said.

"Once we can say the bomb can safely be released from the aircraft, we will move to guided tests," he said. "We will then release the weapons to see if they hit their targets. We're starting easy and working our way up to more difficult tests."

Major Fischer said integration of the SDB with the F-22 is important to the warfighter because it puts almost everything in their target set.

"Targets we can't get with most weapons, we can get with the F-22 because we have stealth," he said. "With this weapon and aircraft, there is no place we can't reach and no place for an enemy to hide."

Source: USAF Edwards AFB Press Release by Senior Airman Jason Hernandez

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