Complementing the weapon is a smart miniature munitions carriage system. This system can carry four small diameter bombs, enabling an aircraft to quadruple its load out.
The carriage system functions similar to an aircraft stores management system by communicating with and controlling up to four weapons.
A small diameter bomb can be used in adverse weather and has a standoff range of more than 60 nautical miles.
Once released, the weapon uses its inertial navigation and an anti-jam Global Positioning System to fly to the target. Its guidance is further augmented by a differential GPS system, which provides corrections to enhance accuracy.
As the Air Force chief of staff's number one weapon priority, the small diameter bomb is the fastest major acquisition program in Eglin history. The weapon is scheduled to be in the hands of the warfighter for the first time in September 2006.
A weapon like the small diameter bomb is not created overnight. It was actually born as the small smart bomb through an advanced technology demonstration at Eglin's Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate.
There, a team of engineers wanted to demonstrate weapon technologies that increased aircraft loadout and allowed multiple targets to be attacked in a single combat sortie.
"This was done by focusing on the delivery accuracy, controllability and penetration capability of a 250-pound class weapon with approximately 50 pounds of explosive," said Ken Lockwood, director of the Small Diameter Bomb I Squadron, who was part of the demonstration team at the lab. "The success of the program emphasized the fact that accuracy and load out were sufficient to overcome the warhead size constraints."
The group also wanted to explore increased standoff capability of the weapon.
But they had to make sure they maintained the bomb's effectiveness and penetration capability while doing this.
"The objectives were to develop a low-cost wing kit that could extend the range of this weapon to greater than 40 nautical miles," Lockwood said. "At the conclusion of this program, increased load out, supersonic carriage and release, standoff, and weapon effectiveness had all been demonstrated."
Requirements set for the small smart bomb became small diameter bomb's foundation. The program was transitioned over to the Air Armament Center for further development and fielding.
Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Force chief of staff at the time, liked the new small diameter bomb so much that he wanted it fielded and ready for the warfighter by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2006.
From their request for proposal, the new small diameter bomb program office picked two contractors to design and test their prototype weapon system. They would then select one of them to produce the bomb after completing the component advanced development phase.
"Schedule was number one from the beginning," said Richard Walley, deputy director of the Miniature Munitions Systems Group. "Therefore, a lot of emphasis during the component advanced development phase was on design maturity so we could go right into a program with minimum changes."
The small diameter bomb team accelerated the acquisition process for the component advanced development phase by using a lot of the same concepts as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser program offices.
"The whole point of the competition was to have a higher probability of getting a weapons system that would perform to the requirements and have a price competition for the production options in out years," said Col. Richard Justice, commander of the Miniature Munitions Systems Group. "We used the competition very effectively; and if you look at the production pricing, we're buying it at less than half of the user's requirement."
During the next two years the program office carefully graded and evaluated the two contractor's different designs.
"The competition phase was essentially a fly off because both had weapons that flew," said Cynthia Schurr, director of engineering for Miniature Munitions Systems Group. "From there, we rolled down into one contactor and moved ahead."
Boeing was selected in 2003 to complete the system development and demonstration phase and produce the small diameter bomb.
During its developmental testing program, the small diameter bomb completed 35 out of 37 flight tests successfully. The program office attributed its success to having a good stable design early and keeping focused on the schedule.