Video Above: Why the Pentagon Needs more Hellfire Missiles, Small Diameter Bomb IIs. DoD Budget priorities.
By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven
Hellfire & Small Diameter Bomb II
A lesser-recognized proposed budget increase can be seen with two key munitions -- the Hellfire Missile and Small Diameter Bomb II. The Hellfire is greatly expanding it uses beyond helicopters and some of its regular applications, to include arming the Navy Littoral combat ship and the Army’s Short Range Air Defense arming Stryker vehicles with vertically-launched, counter air Hellfires.
The Small Diameter Bomb II, an air-dropped weapon brining a new generation of precision targeting and attack technology, is now more fully integrating to F-35s and other aircraft. The SBD II brings integrated seeker systems to include semi-active laser technology, millimeter wave guidance, RF guidance and infrared heat seeking sensor targeting. The SBD II is also capable of essentially “tracking” moving targets, changing course in flight and hitting targets at ranges out to 40-miles. In development for several years now, the SBD II is fast-entering new stages of testing, early production and integration on various aircraft.
The Pentagon's 2020 budget request asks for more than 3,000 more Hellfires and $200 million more than last year; the request also asks for 7,000 more Small Diameter Bomb IIs compared to last year.
Raytheon photo - SBD II
Additional Hellfire uses are bringing a substantial strategic and tactical change for the military services. Adding Hellfires to Navy Littoral Combat Ships makes the vessel much more lethal at shorter and medium ranges. With its guidance technologies and range, it brings a strong counter-air dimension to both ship defense and ship attack. Hellfires could be fired at enemy drones, helicopters and low-flying aircraft in maritime environments. Naturally this could defend against, defer or counter attacks, but it could also target enemy sub-hunting helicopters, unmanned vessels and sonobuoy-dropping helicopters. It is a medium range weapons which brings offensive attack possibilities, expanding beyond the LCS' shorter range deck-mounted guns. It gives the LCS and improved standoff range for land attack at medium distances and also fortifies a blue water combat ability.
On land, bringing vertically-fired counter drone weapons to Stryker vehicles is a substantial added war feature. Short Range Air Defense, or SHORAD, is already arming a wide number of Strykers, bringing back the Cold-War emphasized need for medium range counter air. This not only gives a Stryker the ability to track and destroy enemy drone attacks, but also enables counter helicopter attacks and even intercept ability of some incoming enemy munitions. As one senior leader put it to Warrior Maven, land combat air and missile defense had "atrophied" during the 15-years of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also, as part of this, there are also two broad often discussed trends. The first is that, given the persistent scope of attacks on ISIS in recent years, there has been an overall ammunition stockpile shortage. For example, in recent years the Air Force has made rapid moves to increase its stockpile of laser-guided rockets, 2.75 inch Hydra Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System. Secondly, the Air Force in particular is now making a massive push to modernize its arsenal of air-dropped bombs - with much of this falling under the R&D proposed increase.
-- To Read Warrior Maven's Story on "Dialable Effects Munitions" CLICK HERE --
A recent Mitchell Institute study pointed out that, despite the well-document massive improvements in bomb-guidance technology, precision and targeting, bomb bodies themselves have not seen a commensurate level of modernization. As a result, the Air Force Research Lab is now fast-tracking a handful of new air-dropped weapons to include new “variable yield” weapons and new large penetrating “bunker-buster bombs.”
-- To Read Warrior Story on Air Force Acceleration of Variable Yield "Sniper Bomb" CLICK HERE
Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.