A joint venture between Saab and Boeing has this week succeeded in deploying the ground launched small diameter bomb (GLSDB) from a ground based launcher. Previously small diameter bombs (SDBs) were delivered by strike aircraft and are favoured due to their limited blast radius and reduced collateral damage.
The successful test occurred at the Andøya Test Center in Andenes, Norway with Saab noting; “…we have developed a highly competent system that offers high precision at long range”. The ability to launch a SDB adds an evolutionary new capability to long range indirect fires with the test firing striking a target 130 kilometers away. A previous test firing recorded in 2015 can be seen on YouTube.
The original SDB was the GBU-39/B, a 250 pound/110 kg guided munition. It was later supplemented with the improved GBU-53/B Storm Breaker which includes a smart fuse for airburst or delayed detonation along with greater anti-tank capability.
One of the key innovations of the GLSDB is that it is launcher independent meaning that the SDB can be fired from any launcher “…capable of using the M26 launch pod container e.g. HIMARS, M270 and ChunMoo,” along with a naval or land based “…custom made, fully autonomous, 20 foot container”.
This offers the opportunity to mount such containerized platforms on any naval vessel, covertly if necessary. It also means that such a platform could be delivered to a combat outpost or seized airfield to provide immediate short-term long range strikes without requiring the transportation and resupply of a traditional artillery or even HIMARS battery.
Non-warships, including ostensibly civilian shipping, can be suitably armed to attack shore or sea targets. China has been experimenting with similar designs including a deck-based container capable of launching a variant of the YJ-18 cruise missile. To all intents and purposes, the container launcher looks like any other commercial goods container carried on thousands of cargo ships, except it conceals a very lethal capability.