Perhaps enemy ground vehicles moving toward an attack have been engineered with certain kinds of infrared suppressors to lower heat emissions and therefore be less detectable to thermal infrared targeting? Similarly, perhaps an enemy vehicle has turned its engines off while remaining stationary in a forward attack position, for the purpose of lowering heat and noise signatures? In this kind of scenario, laser-guided targeting might be the preferred method of engagement. A ground or air generated laser designator could “paint” or illuminate such a tricky target for the Stormbreaker bomb.
Preparing for these kinds of varied attack dynamics in air war forms the basis for why the Air Force and Raytheon have engineered the Stormbreaker weapon, a multi-mode air-dropped weapon designed to destroy targets with millimeter wave, infrared or semi-active laser technology.
The weapon, which is now ready for war, is planned for the F/A-18 and F-35 and, in a recent development, it is now operational on an Air Force F-15. The Stormbreaker was engineered with the strategic recognition the future targets in major war will be much more difficult to reach given enemy countermeasures, sensor detection ranges and an increase in stand-off weaponry. With this in mind, Air Force and Raytheon developers sought to engineer a multi-mode targeting link able to draw upon a two-way data link to track and destroy enemy targets from distances as far at forty miles.
Arming the F-15 is a first step for the Air Force as it continues Stormbreaker development. With the F-35, the weapon will be able to operate from an internal weapons bay so that the aircraft can maintain its stealth properties.