Air Force to buy low-collateral-damage variant of Small Diameter Bomb

By Rachel Cohen / June 25, 2018 at 3:29 PM

Boeing will receive an Air Force contract in the next three months to build a new batch of a Small Diameter Bomb I variant designed to minimize collateral damage.

In emails sent June 20 and 25, Air Force spokeswoman Jasmine Porterfield declined to answer how many Focused Lethality Munitions the service will buy, or how much the contract will be worth, but said delivery will start in late fiscal year 2019.

The FLM "is an advanced fill in a composite-cased warhead and integrated into the existing SDB I weapon system," the service said in a June 6 contract notice. "This effort is in response to an urgent operational requirement to provide USAF aircraft platforms the ability to prosecute high-value targets having collateral damage sensitivity."

FLM can fly on Boeing F-15E and Lockheed Martin F-22 fighter jets. Porterfield said the Air Force isn't considering adding the weapon to other platforms.

"The Small Diameter Bomb Focused Lethality Munition variant gives warfighters the precision of SDB with very low collateral damage," Boeing's SDB Program Manager Charlie Davis said June 13. "The FLM is made of carbon fiber and disintegrates upon impact instead of fragmenting, and it has an explosive compound that provides enhanced blast characteristics. The guided weapon provides a standoff range of more than 60 nautical miles to protect aircrews engaging threats in combat."

The weapon also offers anti-jamming GPS and inertial navigation.

Boeing currently builds more than 5,000 SDBs each year and plans to ramp up to 8,000 annually by the end of 2018, Davis said. Both SDB and FLM are built on the same production line. However, Porterfield said the Air Force does not plan to invest further in FLM.

"There are no other munitions that provide the same capability," she said.

In 2013, Boeing completed production of 500 FLM units and noted in a December 2013 press release the Air Force had used 23 in combat.