GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb

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GBU-39/B (Small Diameter Bomb)
4 SDBs (training/ground handling variant) loaded on an F-15E Strike Eagle
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service2006–present
Used byUnited States
Saudi Arabia[1]
WarsWar in Afghanistan, Iraq War, Gaza War, Military intervention against ISIL, Syrian Civil War[2]
Production history
ManufacturerBoeing Integrated Defense Systems
Unit costUS$40,000 (SDB)[3]
US$250,000FY2014[4] (SDB II)
No. built17,000+[5]
Mass285 lb (129 kg)
Length70.8 in (1.80 m)[6]
Width7.5 in (190 mm)

WarheadSDB I (GBU-39/B)
penetrating blast fragmentation, penetrating steel nosecone[7]
blast ultra low fragmentation[8]
Laser SDB (GBU-39B/B)
penetrating blast fragmentation, w/o steel nosecone[7]
Warhead weightAll SDB I variants
206 lb (93 kg) total[7][8]
SDB I (GBU-39/B)
36 lb (16 kg) AFX 757 enhanced blast insensitive explosive, penetrating steel case and nosecone
137 lb (62 kg) AFX 1209 MBX ("multiphase blast explosive"), composite case
Laser SDB (GBU-39B/B)
36 lb (16 kg) AFX 757 enhanced blast insensitive explosive, penetrating steel case

All SDB I variants
more than 69 mi (110 km)[6]
28 mi (45 km) against moving targets[9]
SDB I (GBU-39/B)
Laser SDB (GBU-39B/B)
GPS / INS with terminal semi-active laser guidance
GPS / INS with dual-band two-way datalink, IIR and millimeter wave active radar homing
AccuracyAll SDB I variants
20–30 ft (5–8 m) CEP
3 ft (1 m) CEP est.

The GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) is a 250 lb (113 kg) precision-guided glide bomb that is intended to provide aircraft with the ability to carry a higher number of more accurate bombs. Most US Air Force aircraft will be able to carry (using the BRU-61/A rack) a pack of four SDBs in place of a single 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb.[10] It first entered service in 2006.

The GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB2), adds a tri-mode seeker (radar, infrared homing, and semiactive laser guidance) to the INS and GPS guidance of the original SDB.[11]


The GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb

The original SDB is equipped with a GPS-aided inertial navigation system to attack fixed/stationary targets such as fuel depots, bunkers, etc. The second variant, Raytheon's GBU-53/B SDB II, will include a thermal seeker and radar with automatic target recognition features for striking mobile targets such as tanks, vehicles, and mobile command posts.[12]

The small size of the bomb allows a single strike aircraft to carry more of the munitions than is possible using currently available bomb units. The SDB carries approximately 36 lb (16 kg) of AFX-757 high explosive.[13] It has integrated "DiamondBack" type wings which deploy after release, increasing the glide time and therefore the maximum range. Its size and accuracy allow for an effective munition with less collateral damage.[14] Warhead penetration is 3 ft (1 m) of steel reinforced concrete under 3 ft of earth and the fuze has electronic safe and fire (ESAF) cockpit selectable functions, including air burst and delayed options.[15]

The SDB I has a circular error probable (CEP) of 16–26 ft (5–8 m).[14] CEP is reduced by updating differential GPS offsets prior to weapon release. These offsets are calculated using an SDB Accuracy Support Infrastructure, consisting of three or more GPS receivers at fixed locations transmitting calculated location to a correlation station at the theatre Air Operations Center. The corrections are then transmitted by Link 16 to SDB-equipped aircraft.

Alternative guidance and warheads[edit]

In November 2014, the U.S. Air Force began development of a version of the SDB I intended to track and attack sources of electronic warfare jamming directed to disrupt the munitions' guidance. The home-on-GPS jam (HOG-J) seeker works similar to the AGM-88 HARM to follow the source of a radio-frequency jammer to destroy it.[16][17]

In January 2016, the Air Force awarded a contract to Scientific Systems Co. Inc. to demonstrate the company's ImageNav technology, a vision-based navigation and precision targeting system that compares a terrain database with the host platform's sensor to make course corrections. ImageNav technology has demonstrated target geo-location and navigation precision within three meters.[18]

In January 2016, Orbital ATK revealed that the Alternative Warhead (AW), designed for the M270's GMLRS to achieve area effects without leaving behind unexploded ordnance, had been successfully tested on the SDB.[19]


In 2002, while Boeing and Lockheed Martin were competing to develop the Small Diameter Bomb, Darleen A. Druyun – at that time Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition and Management – deleted the requirement for moving target engagement, which favored Boeing. She was later convicted of violating a conflict of interest statute.[20][21]

In May 2009, Raytheon announced that it had completed its first test flight of the GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II, which has a data link and a tri-mode seeker built with technology developed for the Precision Attack Missile.[22] In August 2010 the U.S. Air Force awarded a $450 million contract for engineering and development.[23]

Although unit costs were somewhat uncertain as of 2006, the estimated cost for the INS/GPS version was around US$70,000. Boeing and the Italian firm Oto Melara signed a contract covering the license production of 500 GBU-39/B (INS/GPS) and 50 BRU-61/A racks for the Aeronautica Militare, at a cost of nearly US$34 million. US$317m was spent on R&D and spares for SDB II in FY13/14, with US$148.5m requested in these categories for FY15, the total budget split roughly 70:30 between USAF and USN.[4]

SDB II production began in FY14 with 144 bombs for the USAF at a unit cost of US$250,000.[4] The FY15 budget requested 246 bombs at a cost of US$287,000 each.[4] When the Pentagon approved the SDB II for production and deployment in May 2015, it had a unit cost of US$115,000.[24]


  • October 2001 – Boeing is awarded the SDB contract.[25]
  • September 2005 – Small Diameter Bomb certified for operational test, evaluation.[26]
  • September 2006 – SDB team deliver the first SDBs to the USAF.[27]
  • October 2006 – Initial Operational Capability declared for SDB on the F-15E Strike Eagle.[28]
  • October 2006 – First use in combat.[29]
  • February 2008 – 1,000th SDB I and first 50 FLM delivered.[30]
  • September 2008 – Israel received approval from the US Congress to purchase 1,000 bombs.[31]
  • December 2008 – Reportedly used against Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip, including underground rocket launchers.[31]
  • January 2009 – Unnamed Boeing official stated that they have yet to deliver any SDBs to Israel.[32]
  • June 2010 – FMS request by the Netherlands for 603 units and support equipment valued at US$44 million.[33]
  • August 2010 – U.S. Air Force selects Raytheon's GBU-53/B for Small Diameter Bomb II Program.[34]
  • 2014 – Work begins on home-on-GPS jam.[35]
  • May 2015 – SDB II approved by Pentagon for production and deployment on the F-15E.[24]
  • April 2016 – FMS request by Australia for 2,950 units and support equipment valued at US$386 million.[36]


The GBU-39/B began separation tests on the F-22 Raptor in early September 2007 after more than a year of sometimes difficult work to integrate the weapon in the weapons bay and carry out airborne captive carry tests.

The SDB is currently integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle, Panavia Tornado, JAS-39 Gripen, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor and AC-130W. Future integration is planned for the F-35 Lightning II, A-10 Thunderbolt II, B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit, B-52 Stratofortress and AC-130J. Other aircraft, including UCAVs, may also receive the necessary upgrades.

The General Atomics Predator C is also planned to carry this weapon.[37]


GBU-39A/B – SDB Focused Lethality Munition (FLM)[edit]

Under a contract awarded in September 2006, Boeing developed a version of the SDB I which replaces the steel casing with a lightweight composite casing and the warhead with a focused-blast explosive such as Dense inert metal explosive (DIME). This should further reduce collateral damage when using the weapon for pin-point strikes in urban areas.[38]

On 28 February 2008, Boeing celebrated the delivery of the first 50 FLM weapons.[39]

The USAF intends to use the same FLM casing on a weapon of 500 pounds (227 kg).[40]

In December 2013, Boeing delivered the last of the 500 FLMs under contract.[41]

GBU-39B/B – Laser SDB[edit]

In mid-2012, the U.S. Senate recommended zeroing out funding for the SDB II due to fielding delays with the F-35 Lightning II. With the delay in SDB II fielding, Boeing recommended an upgrade to their SDB as a temporary gap-filler to get desired performance at a fraction of the cost. Called the Laser Small Diameter Bomb (LSDB), it integrates the laser used on the JDAM to enable the bomb to strike moving targets. Boeing began testing the LSDB in 2011 and successfully hit targets traveling 30–50 mph (48–80 km/h).[42]

In June 2013, Boeing was awarded a contract to develop and test the LSDB. The contract is for phase one part two engineering, integration and test, and production support and an LSDB Weapon Simulator. Boeing says the LSDB can be built at a lower cost than the planned Raytheon SDB II, as it will use the same semi-active laser sensor as the JDAM to hit moving and maritime targets. However, Boeing admits that it does not have the capability to engage targets in zero-visibility weather, as it lacks the SDB II's millimeter wave radar.[43] The Laser SDB began fielding with the U.S. Special Operations Command in 2014.[17][44]

GBU-53/B SDB2[edit]

The GBU-53/B is designed with sensors to be able to recognize and hit moving targets. In late September 2020, the SDB2 (GBU-53/B) was cleared for operational service by USAF Air Combat Command on the F-15E Strike Eagle, after testing at Eglin Air Force Base. About a year of delay was caused by a clip restraint for the fins, with an early version suffering vibration fatigue. Testing with the F-35 is the next phase of the introduction into service.[45]

Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB)[edit]

See also[edit]

  • H-4 SOW – Pakistani Precision Guided glide bomb.
  • Spice (bomb) – Israeli precision bomb convertible unguided to guided
  • KGGB – South Korean precision guided glide bomb


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  2. ^ "Twitter status by @BabakTaghvaee". @BabakTaghvaee. 30 April 2018.
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  5. ^ Boeing, Saab test ground-launched small diameter bomb -, 16 June 2015
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  7. ^ a b c Boeing Small Diameter Bomb Increment I (SDB I)
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  12. ^ "Boeing Small Diameter Bomb II Successfully Engages Target in Flight Test". MediaRoom.
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  16. ^ Air Force to enable smart weapons to track and kill sources of electronic warfare (EW) jamming -, 13 November 2014
  17. ^ a b Guided-Bomb Makers Anticipate GPS Jammers -, 1 June 2015
  18. ^ Air Force tests technology that could enable smart munition to see the way to its target -, 14 January 2016
  19. ^ Lockheed Martin awarded Orbital ATK to produce its GMLRS Alternative Warhead for US Army -, 20 January 2016
  20. ^ "GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb / Small Smart Bomb".
  21. ^ "Comptroller General of the United States on Lockheed Martin Corporation--Costs" (PDF).
  22. ^ "Raytheon's GBU-53/B Small Diameter Bomb II Completes First Flight".
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  25. ^ Boeing Awarded Small Diameter Bomb Contract – Boeing press release.
  26. ^ Small Diameter Bomb certified for operational test, evaluation, Air Force Print News
  27. ^ Small Diameter Bomb I delivered ahead of schedule, Air Force Print News
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  29. ^ "Ancile".
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  41. ^ Richardson, Doug (13 January 2014). "Boeing delivers final Focused Lethality Munition to USAF". IHS Jane's Missiles & Rockets. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  42. ^ Boeing: Laser Small Diameter Bomb Could Fill Gap -, 9 August 2012
  43. ^ USAF to award Boeing Laser SDB contract -, 28 June 2013
  44. ^ Surveillance Technology a Priority For Special Operations Forces -, July 2015
  45. ^ After yearlong delay, the US Air Force is ready to field Raytheon’s new smart bomb, Valerie Insinna,, 2020-10-14

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