Guided Bombs

Guided Bombs

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German scientists began experimenting with guided bombs before the outbreak of the Second World War. The Fritz-X bomb was used for the first time in September 1943. The 1400kg armour-piercing bomb had small wings and a tail unit containing the guidance mechanism. It was controlled during its drop by an observer in the aircraft passing commands via a radio link. It had a range of eight miles and was so fast that anti-aircraft guns found it impossible to hit them. As well as sinking the battleship Roma it also badly damaged the British warship Warspite in 1943.

The United States also developed the VB-1 guided bomb in the later stages of the war. The 1,000lb missile had a pair of radio-controlled rudders, which were manipulated by a bombardier in the aircraft after it was dropped. a flare in the bomb's tail was used to provide visual guidance. An improved VB-3 could also have its range adjusted by altering the angle of its descent.

Precision-guided munition

Because the damage effects of explosive weapons decrease with distance due to an inverse cube law, even modest improvements in accuracy (hence reduction in miss distance) enable a target to be attacked with fewer or smaller bombs. Thus, even if some bombs miss, fewer air crews are put at risk and the harm to civilians and the amount of collateral damage may be reduced.

The advent of precision-guided munitions resulted in the renaming of older bombs as "gravity bombs", "dumb bombs", or "iron bombs".

The North Vietnamese Bridge That Took Seven Years to Destroy

The road and railway bridge at south of Hanoi spanned the Ma River and was a vital link in the movement of communist troops and supplies. For the better part of a decade, U.S. Navy, Marine and Air Force aviators braved the flak-filled skies over North Vietnam on missions to destroy the 56-foot-wide bridge, christened the “Dragon’s Jaw” by locals, and sever that link. Dragon’s Jaw: An Epic Story of Courage and Tenacity in Vietnam, by New York Times bestselling author bridge and noted aviation historian Barrett Tillman, chronicles that epic campaign, whose early failures became a symbol of North Vietnamese resolve and resistance to American air power.

Originally built by the French during the colonial period, the bridge was destroyed in 1945 by communist-led Viet Minh forces fighting for independence and replaced with a stronger structure that opened in 1964. American military planners targeted the Dragon’s Jaw in Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign initiated on March 2, 1965, to interdict enemy transportation routes.

Air Force F-105D Thunderchiefs based in Thailand attacked the Dragon’s Jaw twice in April 1965, blasting it with 348 bombs and missiles. The assaults blew out chunks of supporting concrete, cratered the approaches to the structure and temporarily suspended road and rail traffic across the Ma River—but the bridge refused to fall.

Both land and carrier-based aircraft continued to attack the bridge without success. In May 1966 alone, Navy pilots dropped 128 tons of ordnance on and around the Dragon’s Jaw, and no fewer than 30 airstrikes were conducted against the bridge between January and March 1967. Yet, after every strike, teams of North Vietnamese dutifully emerged to inspect and repair the damage. The Americans, it seemed, were only capable of knocking the bridge out for a few days at a time. “We thought of calling Hanoi,” joked one Navy pilot, “and saying we’d push three A-4s [Skyhawks] overboard if they would just blow up that damn bridge!”

Coonts and Tillman contend that the American military was surprisingly ill-equipped to slay the Dragon. U.S. air crews were armed primarily with undersized conventional munitions, “dumb” bombs, that lacked the accuracy and punch to destroy a steel truss bridge reinforced with concrete piers. Pilots reported that only half of their bombs landed within 450 feet of the target, and ordnance analysts determined that more powerful weapons—not standard issue 500-pound, 750-pound and 1,000-pound bombs—were required to demolish the bridge.

Making the job even more difficult was North Vietnam’s sophisticated defenses. American planes hurtling down through the clouds had to run a gauntlet of MiG fighters, surface-to-air missiles and radar-guided anti-aircraft artillery. By late 1968, the North Vietnamese had increased the number of anti-aircraft guns from 700 in 1965 to more than 8,000.

The Thanh Hoa bridge, write Coonts and Tillman, “became the most heavily defended target in North Vietnam, which is to say, at that time in human history, the most heavily defended target on earth.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson, hoping perhaps to influence the peace process in Southeast Asia, terminated Rolling Thunder on Oct. 31,1968, stopping the airstrikes against the bridge. Over the course of the bombing campaign, 12 aircraft had been lost attacking the Dragon’s Jaw—and 13 airmen were dead or missing. Seven more were captured by the North Vietnamese and imprisoned for years, some subjected to torture at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”

President Richard Nixon gradually resumed air operations against North Vietnam. He reauthorized airstrikes in the Thanh Hoa area in 1971 and, after the communist Easter Offensive on March 30,1972, expanded the air war to cover all of North Vietnam with Operation Linebacker I. Loaded with specially built 3,000-pound laser-guided bombs—precision munitions that would revolutionize air warfare—Air Force fighter-bombers attacked the Dragon’s Jaw in May and nearly destroyed it. That October Navy A-7 Corsairs with laser and electro-optical guided bombs delivered the coup de grace .

A gratifying, throttles-forward thrill ride, Dragon’s Jaw poignantly captures the terror, heroism and sacrifice of aerial combat in Vietnam. ✯

Research and Sources

"Operation Linebacker I 1972 The first high-tech air war" by Marshall L. Michel III, Osprey publishing (ePub edition), 2019
"Rolling Thunder 1965-1968 Vietnam's most controversial air campaign" by Richard P. Hallion, Osprey publishing (ePub edition), 2018
"Linebacker The Untold Story of the Air Raids over North Vietnam" by Karl J. Eschmann, Lume Books (Kindle edition), 2018
"The Long Road to Desert Storm and Beyond" by Major Donald L. Blackwelder, School Of Advanced Airpower Studies, May 1992
"Second Generation Weaponry in SEA", HQ PACAF Directorate, Tactical Evaluation Project CHECO SEA Report, 10 September 1970
"Linebacker Operations September - December 1972", Project CHECO Office of History HQ PACAF 31 December 1978

Guided Missiles, Misguided Policies, and Changing Direction Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love WWIII

Thank you for inviting me. I’d like to speak briefly and spend a good deal of time on Q&A. I’d like to start by considering this question: If it’s true that madness is more common in societies than individuals, and if the society we live in is aggressively hastening (as I think is well-established) climate collapse, ecosystem devastation, wealth inequality, and institutional corruption (in other words, processes that are clearly counter to conscious, stated desires) is this society perhaps no exception to the rule? Is it perhaps insane? And are there perhaps other interconnected madnesses that we don’t see entirely clearly, precisely because we are members of this society?

What about locking huge numbers of people in cages at an expense much greater than giving them good lives? What about devoting land, energy, and resources to feeding animals to feed people, using food that could have fed ten times as many people without the environmental destruction and animal cruelty? What about employing armed and trained killers to tell people they’re driving too fast and shouldn’t bicycle on the sidewalk? Could it be that lots of stuff a saner culture would call loony looks as normal to us as burning witches, bleeding patients, and exhibiting eugenically awesome infants looked to others in the past?

In particular, what if it just isn’t permanently and universally normal and rational to be taking all the steps being taken to hasten nuclear apocalypse? We’ve got scientists saying the catastrophe is more likely now than ever, and that the nature of it would be worse than ever previously understood. We’ve got historians saying the near misses are more numerous than ever before known. And yet we’ve got media outlets informing everyone that the problem vanished 30 years ago. We’ve got a U.S. government dumping vast treasure into building more nuclear weapons, refusing to foreswear using them first, and talking about them as “usable.” One of the key reasons for the danger having supposedly passed is that the number of times the existing stockpiles of nukes could eliminate all life on earth has been reduced — if you can dignify that with the term “reason.” Much of the world is clamoring for the elimination of nukes, while another chunk of the world is defending their manufacture, distribution, and routine threats of using them. Clearly, somebody is right, and somebody is crazy. By somebody I mean a whole society, not its individuals, and despite the exceptions.

What about the whole idea of killing people? Killing prisoners to teach them not to kill people? Killing people who look, from the perspective of a distant video camera, like they might be an adult male in the wrong place and near a cell phone suspected of belonging to someone unliked, plus any men and women and children who happen to be nearby? Killing people who cross a border and run from armed fighters? Killing people who get in the way of police and look like their skin has a bit too much pigment? What if the whole practice of killing all of these people has something wrong with it? What if it’s as deranged as the doctors who bled George Washington to death, or Phil Collins’ belief that he died at the Alamo, or Joe Biden’s idea that the U.S. government doesn’t interfere in other nations’ elections?

What if killing people is certifiably bonkers even in an imaginary scenario in which the United Nations has authorized a good humanitarian war and the people being killed are all wearing uniforms, and nobody’s tortured or raped or looted, and every murder is super respectful and free of hatred or animosity? What if the problem is the careful avoidance of peace that gets each war started, not the details of the atrocities? What if “war crimes” as a phrase to say a lot in public so that nobody thinks you’re a fascist or a Republican is actually as nonsensical as “slavery crimes” or “mass-rape crimes” because war is a crime in its entirety? What if every war for decades has actually killed disproportionately the so-called wrong people, the elderly, the very young, the civilian? What if there’s nothing worse than war that can be used to justify war? What if wars are principally generated by wars and by preparations for wars? If this were true — and I’m willing to debate every claim that it isn’t — would there not be something a little bit shy of playing with a full deck to be found in the practice of investing trillions of dollars in the machinery of war?

The case made on the World BEYOND War website is, of course, that the diversion of money into war preparations that make people less safe, not more safe, itself kills vastly more people than have been killed in all the wars thus far. It does this by depriving us of those things we could have spent the money on, things like food, water, medicine, shelter, clothing, etc. If this is true, and if it’s additionally the case that war fuels hatred and bigotry and racism, that war and preparations for it devastate the natural earth, that war is the one and only excuse for government secrecy, that the war bases and weapons sales and free training and funding prop up horribly oppressive governments, that the war business erodes civil liberties in the name of some mysterious substance called “freedom,” and that war coarsens a culture while militarizing police and minds — if all of this is true, the offense of war that those infected by the madness call “the defense industry” might just be the most coocoo confabulation ever concocted.

This much I’ve said a billion times. And a billion and five times I’ve replied to the World War II delusion that you all will ask about as soon as I shut my mouth. No, WWII did not have anything to do with saving anyone from any death camp. The U.S. and allied governments explicitly refused to accept the Jews out of Germany, and for openly antisemitic reasons. No step was ever taken to halt the murders of the camps. The war killed several times what the camps did. The war came about after years of Western arms race with Japan and support for Nazi Germany. U.S. corporations critically supported the Nazis right through the war, for profit reasons and ideological ones. The Nordic race nonsense and the segregation laws and much of the extermination inspiration and technology came from the United States. The nuclear bombs were not needed for anything. Nothing about WWII proves that violence is needed for anything. And if it were needed for opposing Nazism, hiring lots of top Nazis into the U.S. military wouldn’t have made much sense. See my book Leaving World War II Behind for the long version.

Now, I want to say something even crazier. Or, if I’m right, I want to say quite sanely that something is even crazier than war. I have in mind the advancement of the risk of World War III, of the first war waged directly between big rich countries since WWII, of a war likely to involve nuclear apocalypse. I don’t think most of the people moving the world toward WWIII think of themselves as doing that. But I don’t think even the CEO of ExxonMobil thinks of himself as advancing the cause of climate collapse either. If the U.S. president wanted to start WWIII and be aware of doing so, he would simply launch the nukes. But here’s what I really want us to think about: if a society wanted to start WWIII without being aware of doing so, what would it do? I know Freud took a lot of flack for saying people had some mysterious death wish even though they would deny it. But I think at this point the burden of proof is on those who would try to prove him wrong, because I don’t think an effort to accidentally start WWIII and blame it on somebody or something else would look particularly different from what U.S. society is doing right now.

The U.S. military has plans for war on China, and talks about a war on China being perhaps a few years off. They call it a war with China, of course, and can count on Congress Members to saturate us with the idea that China has aggressively threatened U.S. prestige by growing wealthier, or aggressively moved into the waters just off the coast of China. But the fact is that, despite major increases in its military spending as the U.S. has moved bases, troops, missiles, and ships (including what the U.S. Navy ridiculously calls the Big Stick carrier strike group) near China, China still spends about 14% of what the U.S. and its allies and weapons customers spend on militarism each year. Russia is at about 8% of just U.S. military spending and falling. If there were a credible enemy for the U.S. military on this planet you’d be hearing a lot less about UFOs right now. We’ll also hear about Chinese violations of human rights, but bombs don’t actually improve human rights, and if human rights violations justified bombs, then the U.S. would have to bomb itself and many of its dearest allies as well as China. Also how do you threaten war against someone for how they manufacture products that you buy? Well, maybe making sense isn’t the goal. Maybe war is the goal.

If you wanted to bring WWIII closer, what would you have to do? One step would be to make war normal and unquestionable. Go ahead and check that one off. Done. Accomplished. Flags and pledges to them are ubiquitous. Thank yous for a supposed service are everywhere. Military advertisements and paid-for pre-game ceremonies are so omnipresent that if the military forgets to pay for one, people will create one for free. The ACLU is arguing that young women should be added to young men in being forced to register for a draft to be compelled against their will to go to war as a matter of civil liberties, the civil liberty to be completely stripped of all liberty.

When President Joe Biden went off to meet with President Vladimir Putin, both major political parties generally encouraged hostility. The Hill newspaper sent out an email with a video of the movie Rocky, demanding that Biden be Rocky in the ring with Putin. When, despite everything, Biden and Putin behaved almost civilly and issued a tiny little statement suggesting they might possibly pursue some unspecified disarmament, and Biden stopped calling Putin a soulless killer, the two presidents then held a pair of separate press conferences. There were no Russian media questions allowed at Biden’s, but U.S. media brought the craziness to both. They hurled nutty accusations. They demanded red lines. They wanted a commitment to war as a response to so-called cyber-war. They wanted declarations of distrust and enmity. They wanted self-righteous revenge for the supposed stealing of the 2016 election and enslavement of President Donald Trump. They would have appeared, I’m convinced, to a disinterested observer from one of the UFOs they’re always going on about, to have wanted WWIII.

The U.S. military and NATO have indeed said that war can be a response to cyberwar. At Putin’s press conference, he discussed various actual laws, existing and potential. Russia and China and other nations have long sought treaties to ban weaponizing space, and to ban cyberwar. At Biden’s press conference, I don’t think a single law was mentioned once by anyone. Yet the constant theme was imposing the “rule based order” on others in the name of stability. But nothing boosts instability more than replacing the very idea of written laws with arbitrary decrees from might-makes-right officials who believe in their own goodness — believe it so much that they announce, as Biden did, that were the U.S. government to interfere in anyone else’s election, and were the world to find out about it, the whole international order would crumble. We know of 85 foreign elections the United States has blatantly interfered in during the past 75 years, not to mention assassination attempts on over 50 foreign leaders, and we know that in poll after poll the world says it fears the U.S. government above all others as a threat to peace and democracy. Yet the international order does not collapse because it does not exist, not as a set of moral standards based on respect.

If you wanted to move the world closer to WWIII without realizing you were doing it, you could convince yourself that you were simply imposing a Pax Americana for the world’s own good, whether the world liked it or not, even while knowing in some back corner of your mind that sooner or later the world would not stand for it, and that when that moment came, some Americans would die, and that when those Americans died, the U.S. media and public would scream for blood and vengeance as if the past many millennia had taught them nothing, and BOOM you’d have what you never even knew you wanted, just like you have the day after browsing

But how to make sure to get those Americans killed? Well, nobody else has ever done this, but one idea would be to station them — and here’s a real stroke of genius — with their families along, on bases all over the world. The bases would prop up and control some horrible governments, enraging local populations. The bases would cause environmental damage as well as plagues of drunkenness, rape, and lawless privilege. They’d be sort of giant gated Apartheid communities that the locals could enter to work menial jobs if they got out by sundown. Maybe 800 of these bases in 80 nations or so ought to do the trick. They wouldn’t strictly speaking be justifiable in terms of unavoidable future wars, given what can be moved where how quickly by airplane, but they might just make future wars unavoidable. Check that off the list. Done. And almost unnoticed.

OK, what else? Well, you can’t very well have a war against enemies without weapons, can you? The United States is now the leading weapons supplier to the world, to rich countries, to poor countries, to so-called democracies, to dictatorships, to oppressive royal despots, and to most of its own designated enemies. The U.S. government allows weapons sales, and/or gives free money with which to buy weapons, and/or provides training for 48 out of 50 of the most oppressive governments in the world according to a ranking funded by the U.S. government — plus plenty of nasty governments left out of that ranking. Few if any wars happen without U.S. weapons. Most wars today happen in places that manufacture few if any weapons. Few if any wars happen in the handful of countries that manufacture most of the weapons. You may think China is coming to get you. Your Congress Member almost certainly thinks China is keenly focused on eliminating his or her right to send free mail and appear on television at will. But the U.S. government funds and arms China, and invests in a bio-weapons lab in China whatever may or may not have come out of it. The weapons dealers do not imagine, of course, that they are bringing on WWIII. They’re just doing business, and it’s been gospel in Western madness for centuries that business causes peace. Those who work for weapons dealers mostly don’t think they’re causing war or peace they think they’re serving their U.S. flag and so-called service members. They do this by pretending that most of the weapons companies’ customers do not exist, that their only customer is the U.S. military.

All right, the weapons bit is well covered. What else is needed? Well, if you wanted to roll a society into WWIII over a period of years or decades, you’d need to avoid the vicissitudes of elections or popular mood swings. You’d want to increase corruption to the point that shifting power from one big political party to another didn’t change anything terribly important. People could have a bit of emergency funding or a new holiday. The rhetoric could vary dramatically. But let’s say you gave the White House and the Congress to the Democrats in 2020, what would have to happen for the death train to remain on the tracks? Well, you’d want no actual wars to end. Nothing makes wars more likely than other wars. With both houses having voted repeatedly in the previous Congress to end the war on Yemen, vetoed by Trump, you’d need those votes to cease immediately. You’d want Biden to pretend to sort-of partially end the war on Yemen, and Congress to go mute. Same with Afghanistan. Keep forces there and on surrounding bases quietly, and make sure Congress does nothing in the way of actually forbidding the continuation of the war.

In fact, it would be ideal to block Congress from ever lifting its grubby little paws again as it pretended to do on Yemen when it could count on Trump vetoes. Perhaps it could be permitted to repeal the AUMF (or authorization for the use of military force) from 2002, but keep the 2001 one around just in case it was ever needed. Or perhaps that one could be replaced by a new one. Also, the Senator Tim Kaine scam could be allowed to advance a bit perhaps — this is where Congress itself repeals the War Powers Resolution that specifies how it can prevent wars, and replaces it with a requirement that presidents consult with Congress before feeling free to ignore Congress. The trick is to market this abandonment of the War Powers Resolution as a strengthening of the War Powers Resolution. OK, that should work. What else?

Well, boost military spending beyond Trump levels. That’s key. And invite the so-called progressive members of Congress to lots of meetings, maybe even give them a few rides on presidential airplanes, threaten a few of them with primaries, whatever’s needed to keep them from actually trying to block military spending. Five of them in the House could block anything the Republicans oppose, but 100 of them putting out a public letter pretending to oppose what they facilitate will do no harm at all. OK, this part’s easy. What else?

Well, avoid peace with Iran. What good would that do? Just stall and prevaricate until we’re past the Iranian elections and they’ve got a new super-hostile government, and then blame the Iranians. That’s never failed before. Why would it fail now? Keep funding and arming the attacks of Israel on Palestine. Keep Russiagate going, or at least don’t renounce it, even if the journalists start appearing — rather than just being — crazy. A small price to pay, and nobody likes the media anyway, no matter how much they obey it.

What else? Well, a major tool that has increasingly proven its worth is sanctions. The U.S. government is brutally sanctioning numerous populations around the globe, fueling suffering, animosity, and bellicosity, and nobody knows it, or they think of it as law-enforcement rather than law violation. It’s brilliant. The U.S. government can even impose sanctions, cause suffering, blame the suffering on the local government’s efforts to alleviate suffering, and propose a coup as a solution straight from the Rule Based Order (we rule, so we give the orders).

Also we’d better be sure to keep the climate catastrophe on track, and for a number of reasons. First, if the nuclear apocalypse never comes, the climate one will. Second, the climate disasters can be used to fuel international crises that — with enough prodding and arming — can lead to wars. Third, the military can actually be marketed as a climate protector, because, although it’s a major contributor to climate change, it can announce how concerned it is and use natural disasters to excuse invasions and establish new bases. And nothing builds up war spirit better than refugees, no matter who caused the horrors that they’re fleeing.

Even disease pandemics can help advance the cause, as long as a reasonable and cooperative response to them is avoided. We’ll want to balance blaming China with avoiding blaming bio-weapons labs or their international partners and investors. The U.S. government can completely control through the media what possible explanations for the origin of a pandemic are acceptable and which ones are deemed, ironically enough, crazy. What we’ll want to avoid is questioning the priority of maintaining labs that can create new tools for wars, and proposing any global solutions to pandemics that might foster cooperation or understanding rather than profit and division.

OK, isn’t this enough? What else could be needed? Well, you can’t very well put WWIII straight onto the stage unrehearsed, can you? We’ll want to have some full-dress rehearsals, major ones, the sort that could accidentally morph into the real thing — the biggest ones ever in Europe and in the Pacific. And more missiles in place near Russia and China, and more nations invited into NATO — especially some of those right on the border of Russia that Russia says it would never sit still for. War in Ukraine is too obvious. How about a coup in Belarus perhaps? What you want is to risk WWIII without jumping straight in with both feet. After all, the other guys need to start it. Let’s think. How did the U.S. get into WWII?

Well there was the Atlantic Charter. Let’s make a new one. Check. There was sanctioning and threatening Japan. Make that China. Check. There was supporting Nazis in Germany. Make that Ukraine. Check. There were big new bases and ships and planes and troops in the Pacific. Check. But history doesn’t repeat exactly. There are many opportunities. Drone murders and bases and so-called anti-terror operations across Africa and Asia. Coups and destabilizations in Latin America. Plenty of hot spots. Plenty of weapons. Plenty of propaganda. Cyberwars anywhere at anytime and who can say who started them for sure? War is getting easier and easier.

Now let’s ask a different question. What would U.S. society look like if it wanted to avoid WWIII? Well, it would drop the exceptionalist schtick and join the world, stop being the biggest holdout on human rights treaties, stop being the biggest vetoer at the UN, stop being the biggest opponent of the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice, start supporting the rule of law instead of the #RuleBasedOrder, start supporting democracy at the United Nations instead of as a word you say in speeches, and prioritize cooperating in global efforts to address environmental and health issues.

In a United States intent on avoiding WWIII, you’d see masses of people demanding the money be moved from militarism to human and environmental needs, you’d see opposition to militarism across the population as well as from movements that are directly impacted by militarism and generally pretend they aren’t, such as environmentalism, anti-poverty, immigrants’ rights, civil liberties, and transparent government movements. You’d see moves to demilitarize, close foreign bases, close domestic bases, divest funding from weapons, convert war industries to peaceful and sustainable industries. You’d see people who appeared on television and were right about upcoming wars allowed to appear on television again rather than being banished to blogs and the bottom dregs of Facebook algorithms. You’d see lying about wars treated as something other than the top qualification to lie about more wars.

You’d see a lot more basic straightforward reporting on wars, including what’s called the humanizing of people. I’ve never understood what people supposedly are prior to being humanized, but it seems they’re decidedly not humans. Take, for example, a seven-year-old boy in Yemen who tells his mother that he wants to go to school. His name is Chakir and he speaks with a bit of difficulty caused by funny teeth and bad habit. But that’s not why his mother doesn’t want him to go to school. She’s afraid of missiles. She teaches Chakir at home. He sits at a little wooden desk next to the dining table, and he pretends to be at school. His mother loves him and finds him adorable and enjoys having him there, although she gets tired, needs a break, and knows school would be better. But then the buzzing grows louder. Chakir crawls under his desk. He smiles. He tries to think it’s funny. But the buzzing gets even louder. It’s straight overhead. Chakir starts to cry. His mother gets down on her knees and goes to him. When Chakir is finally able to get some words out, he says “It’s not safer here than at school. It’s not safer here than at school, Mommy!” The drone passes over. They’re still there. They’ve not been obliterated. The next day, Chakir’s mother allows him to board a bus to school. The bus is struck by a U.S.-supplied missile via the Saudi military and U.S. targeting. Chakir’s mother buries part of one of his arms, which is found in a tree. Now he’s humanized. But they’re all humans. The victims are all humans, though if the media won’t humanize them, people will deny it to themselves. In a society bent on avoiding war, the humanizing would be relentless. And when it wasn’t, protests would demand it.

Of course there is a wide gap between driving hard toward WWIII and proceeding to abolish all militaries. Of course it can only be done by stages. But when the stages are not understood as steps away from apocalypse and in the direction of sanity, they tend not to work very well, even to backfire. War has been so reformed and perfected that people imagine guided missiles killing only and exactly those who really need killing. We can’t survive much more reforming of war. The United States could radically scale back its militarism, destroy all of its nuclear weapons, and close all of its foreign bases, and you’d see a reverse arms race among other nations as a primary result. The United States could simply stop selling weapons to others and see militarism rolled back significantly. The United States could withdraw from NATO and NATO would vanish. It could stop badgering other nations to buy more weapons, and they’d buy fewer weapons. Each step toward a world beyond war would make such a world appear more reasonable to more people.

So, that’s what we’re working on at World BEYOND War. We’re doing education and activism to build a culture of peace and to advance demilitarization around the globe including through divestment of funding from weapons and through efforts to close bases. We’re also working to align more movements and organizations against war by making the connections across divisions, such as by pressuring the conference scheduled for November in Scotland to stop excluding militarism from climate agreements, and working to demilitarize domestic police forces. I’m not sure we shouldn’t be also developing alliances with mental health workers, because either war is crazy or I am. I ask only that you take your time in deciding which.

Deliberate Force: Reaffirmation of the Gulf Experience

Nor was the Gulf War an isolated example. From 30 August through 14 September 1995, for the first time in its history, NATO forces engaged in combat operations, against Bosnian Serbian forces in the former Yugoslavia. A total of 293 aircraft, based at 15 European locations and operating from three aircraft carriers, flew 3,515 sorties in Operation Deliberate Force, to deter Serbian aggression. Somewhat less than 700 of these sorties targeted command and control, supporting lines of communication, direct and essential targets, fielded forces, and integrated air defences. A total of 67 per cent of all such targets engaged were destroyed 14 per cent experienced moderate to severe damage, 16 per cent light damage, and only three per cent were judged to have experienced no damage.36

In contrast to the Gulf War, the vast majority of NATO munitions employed in the Bosnian conflict were precision ones: in fact, over 98 per cent of those used by American forces. American forces employed a total of 622 precision munitions, consisting of 567 laser-guided bombs (303 GBU㪢, 115 GBU㪤, 143 GBU㪨, and 6 GBU㪰), 42 electro-optical or infrared-guided weapons (10 SLAM, 9 GBU㪧, and 23 Maverick), and 13 Tomahawk Land Attack cruise missiles (TLAM). American airmen dropped only 12 ‘dumb’ bombs, consisting of 10 Mk 83’s, and 2 CBU㫯’s. Precision weaponry accounted for 28 per cent of NATO munitions dropped by non-US attackers. Sorties by Spanish, French, and British strike aircraft dropped 86 laser-guided bombs, and French, Italian, Dutch, and United Kingdom attackers dropped 306 ‘dumb’ bombs. Overall, combining both the American and non-American experience in Bosnia, there were 708 precision weapons employed by NATO forces, and 318 non-precision ones thus precision weaponry accounted for 69 per cent of the total employed in the NATO air campaign. Combined statistics of American and NATO experience indicate that the average number of precision weapons per designated mean point of impact (DMPI) destroyed was 2.8. In contrast, the average number of ‘dumb’ general purpose bombs per DMPI destroyed was 6.6. The average number of attack sorties per DMPI destroyed was 1.5.37

As a result of NATO’s first sustained air strike operations, all military and political objectives were attained: safe areas were no longer under attack or threatened, heavy weapons had been removed from designated areas, and Sarajevo’s airport could once again open, as could road access to the city. More importantly, the path to a peace agreement had been secured. In sum, for an overall expenditure of approximately 64 weapons per day - 69 per cent (44) of which were precision weapons - NATO forces achieved their military and political objectives. The leverage that this weaponry gave over Balkan aggressors and the recognition of what precision air attack means to decision-makers in the modern world was enunciated by former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke after the conclusion of the campaign and the settlement of the Dayton Peace Accords:

One of the great things that people should have learned from this is that there are times when air power - not backed up by ground troops - can make a difference. That’s something that our European allies didn’t all agree with. Americans were in doubt on it. It made a difference.38

Holbrooke’s statement hints at one of the major effects of precision, namely that the traditional notion of massing a large ground force to confront an opponent, particularly on a ‘field of battle,’ is now rendered archaic. To a degree, throughout military history, the span of influence of ground forces was always spreading out the battle area at the expense of ‘mass’. As the zone of lethality an individual soldier could command increased, the spacing between soldiers expanded as well. Such spacing meant that artillery fire, however well- targeted, nevertheless could not achieve the kind of density on a day-to-day basis to control or eliminate opposition. For example, despite a truly gargantuan leavening of artillery rounds per square yard of the Western Front during the ‘Great War,’ the Germans and allied forces only rarely achieved decisive effect, resulting in a war of attrition that generated millions of casualties. But the precision attacker overcomes the expansion of the linear battlefield by exercising the ability to undertake individual targeting at ranges far in excess of even the most powerful artillery. Thus airplanes, ‘smart’ ballistic missiles, or cruise missiles, launched hundreds of miles away from a frontline, can then pass beyond that frontline for a distance of hundreds of miles more before targeting some key enemy facility or capability that directly influences the success of enemy operations at the front itself. This is true flexibility, of a sort again unknown to previous military eras.


Early attempts

There were several attempts, of varying success, to use gliding bombs late in the Second World War, but the available sensing and guidance technology were inadequate for effective use. Even television cameras, a reliable commodity today, could only transmit a crude picture from the nose of a bomb.

The U.S. AZON was a conventional bomb that had been equipped with aerodynamic control surfaces, and could be steered, by radio from a human operator, left and right in azimuth, hence the name. An improved version, RAZON, could be adjusted in range (i.e., range and azimuth). Guidance and control were totally manual, based on what the weapon operator could see in the television link, and using switches to adjust fins to shift the name — it was not "flown" with a control stick as is an aircraft. [1]

One of the problems of the AZON and related weapons is that to be guided, they could not roll, as did conventional bombs. Rolling, however, stabilized the flight path, so the weapons operator both had to correct drift and aim at the target.

While the German Fritz-X is often called a guided bomb, most models appear to have been was rocket-assisted and really an air-to-surface missile. It had dramatic results, sinking the Italian battleship Roma after Italy surrendered and Germany kept fighting.

First modern guided bombs

During the Vietnam War, the Paul Doumer Bridge was a critical and heavily-defended target, which had withstood hundreds of sorties with conventional bombs dropped by skilled crews, but had never been out of service for more than two months.

Rockwell International developed the GBU-8 laser-guided bomb (LGB) in 1967, but such weapons were not used against the Doumer Bridge until 1972. In comparison to the hundreds of aircraft sorties needed to deliver light damage, 16 F-4 Phantom II fighter-bombers struck the bridge in May 1972, using 2000 pound GBU-10 LGBs . This relatively small attack put the bridge, which carried four of the five railroad lines between North Vietnam and China, out of service for seven months. [2]

The Most Accurate Bombs In History

The U.S. military is fighting perhaps the most accurate air war in history, with most of the 8,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles loosed on Iraq blasting their intended targets.

But "precision" weapons also miss. Human and mechanical errors send 10 percent or more astray, Pentagon and civilian experts say &mdash a disastrous percentage for civilians living near the intended targets.

"No weapons system is foolproof," said Lt. Cmdr. Charles Owens, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Qatar. "We'll always have one or two that go off target."

Some of the dozens of Iraqi civilians killed and wounded may have fallen victim to American precision weapons that, for reasons of mechanical failure or human error, struck homes, markets or city streets rather than military targets.

"Statistically, several hundred of those have missed to some degree," said Rob Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons.

An explosion that killed 14 civilians in Baghdad's Shaab neighborhood last Wednesday may have been caused by a U.S. missile, perhaps an anti-radar missile aimed at air defenses or a wayward cruise missile. Coalition briefers have suggested one of Iraq's own air defense missiles tumbled to earth and exploded.

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Also under dispute is the cause of a deadly explosion Friday in a Baghdad market that Iraq blames for 60 deaths.

"These two marketplace attacks are looking increasingly sure to have been caused by coalition weapons than went off target," Hewson said.

Terrain-hugging U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by ships in the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Persian Gulf have also missed targets. A handful of the 700 fired in the war have slammed mistakenly into Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, leading the Saudis and Turks to ask the Pentagon to stop firing them across their territory. Iran has protested at least three hits by U.S. missiles.

"If you're going to use cruise missiles, you're going to have ones coming down where they're not supposed to," said David Isby, a private missiles and munitions consultant in Washington, D.C. "This isn't a scandal for long-range operations. It's to be expected."

Bombs and missiles that can be programmed to follow a laser trail or hit a specific geographic coordinate based on satellite guidance comprise about 90 percent of those used in the 12-day-old war, Owens said. The bombs go wrong when they're aimed at mistaken targets or given incorrect coordinates, Isby said.

Laser and satellite-guided bombs can also be pushed off-course by winds, by out-of-date geographic data, a misreading of the attacking aircraft's position or an inherent flaw known as target location error &mdash meaning a location triangulated by satellites doesn't match a spot on earth, Hewson said.

Motors that move the bombs' guiding fins sometimes also fail, Isby said.

Since the Pentagon isn't sharing data on hits and misses, Hewson and other analysts base their predictions of accuracy on anecdotal evidence and data from previous wars.

A Canadian military assessment of laser-guided bomb accuracy during the Kosovo campaign in 1999 showed that 60 to 70 percent hit their targets, Hewson said. Since NATO faced tougher air defenses and weather in that campaign, he said he figures the current combination of laser- and satellite-guided bombs are hitting targets 75 to 80 percent of the time.

"There's a significant gap between 100 percent and reality," he said. "And the more you drop, the greater your chances of a catastrophic failure."

Laser-guided weapons suffer from other problems, including losing their "lock" on the laser target beam, which can be obscured by clouds or smoke. Hewson cited British military video from the 1991 Gulf War that showed a pair of laser-guided bombs gliding far beyond their bridge target and slamming into an Iraqi town.

Hewson said Tomahawks, which use radar to follow reference points on the ground, sometimes get lost over featureless deserts.

At the Pentagon, Air Force Lt. Col. Christy Nolta said that despite painstaking planning, "there's no way to eliminate the risk" of civilian deaths.

"These are mechanical devices, and mechanical devices will have mechanical failures," Nolta said. "Human error also plays into it."

Besides the tragedy of dead civilians, Hewson said errant bombing stokes anti-U.S. and anti-British hostility.

"In a war that's being fought for the benefit of the Iraqi people, you can't afford to kill any of them," Hewson said. "But you can't drop bombs and not kill people. There's a real dichotomy in all of this."

First published on March 31, 2003 / 6:12 PM

© 2003 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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The Italian battleship Roma listing after being hit by German Fritz X radio-controlled bombs launched by Do 217s, Sept. 9, 1943. Italian Navy photo

A couple of hours after midnight on the morning of Sept. 9, 1943, a large force of Italian warships – three battleships, three cruisers, and eight destroyers – slipped out of the northern Italian port of La Spezia. Leading them was the Roma, the Italian Navy’s newest and largest battleship, and they were going out to attack a large Allied naval force, which was, at that moment, staging an amphibious invasion further down the coast at Salerno. At least that was what Adm. Carlo Bergamini told a local German commander. But what they were really doing that night was switching sides and joining the Allies.

Roma was a beautiful, capable warship, and perhaps in other circumstances her role in history might have been a gallant or even decisive one. But instead, it was limited to a single, brief appearance as a sort of sacrificial lamb, slaughtered at the altar of a horrible new kind of weapon.

Roma was a beautiful ship, but then, building beautiful warships was something the Italians were known for. She was trim, and graceful, unlike, say, British warships, which tended to be blocky, purposeful, and businesslike. But the Roma was not just pleasing to the eye, she was also well-armored, fast moving, and very capably armed with three main gun turrets, two forward and one aft, each mounting three 15-inch guns that could fire a high-velocity, armor-piercing shell more than 25 miles. Roma was built to withstand incoming shells, and its compartmented hull, with its ingenious system of bulkheads and expansion cylinders, was made to withstand enemy torpedoes.

The Italian battleship Roma was considered to be a beautiful ship in keeping with Italian naval design. Italian Navy photo

Roma was a beautiful, capable warship, and perhaps in other circumstances her role in history might have been a gallant or even decisive one. But instead, it was limited to a single, brief appearance as a sort of sacrificial lamb, slaughtered at the altar of a horrible new kind of weapon.

By this point, the war was going very badly for Italy and they wanted out. Mussolini had already been deposed and arrested two months earlier, and even though his successor, Prime Minister Badoglio, continued to openly profess solidarity with Adolf Hitler, he quickly started secret negotiations with Allied supreme commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The most warlike thing Roma had done was serve as a floating anti-aircraft battery during air raids while tied up in La Spezia.

At the beginning of September, a secret “short” armistice was signed between representatives of Badoglio and Eisenhower, which, among other things, called for handing over the Italian fleet to the Allies at Malta. Over the next several days, the navy’s commanders were told to make preparations for getting under way, though none except for Bergamini and one or two others were told the actual reason why. The fleet got ready, but there were repeated delays and postponements. Then, on Sept. 8, just as they were beginning their invasion of Salerno, the Allies announced the armistice from a radio station in Algiers. The cat was out of the bag, and Italy was plunged into chaos. A few hours later, Bergamini boarded the Roma and gave the order to cast off and head for the open sea.

For the Roma, this marked her first actual foray out since joining the fleet a year earlier. During that time, Roma had clocked only about 130 hours under way, and all while repositioning from one port to another. The other warships had taken part in some naval actions earlier in the war, but for the last two years it had been the same story for them as well. Italy had been suffering from a major fuel shortage. Not having any native source of petroleum, Italy depended on Germany for fuel, and Germany wasn’t exactly flush either. The most warlike thing Roma had done was serve as a floating anti-aircraft battery during air raids while tied up in La Spezia. Twice during that time, she’d been severely damaged after being hit by large bombs dropped from American B-17s. She’d had to be towed to Genoa for repairs.

The Italian battleship Roma at anchor. The Roma was sunk on Sept. 9, 1943. Italian Navy photo

The armistice agreement directed the Navy to go to Malta and surrender the ships there. However, Bergamini had a different plan. He was taking his fleet to La Maddelena on Sardinia, where King Victor Emmanuel III was setting up a “free government” favorable to the Allies. Eisenhower had apparently given his approval and allowed the transfer of one Italian destroyer there to be placed at the King’s disposal. Bergamini decided it might be a better idea to move the whole fleet there and let the monarch take his pick.

Once in the open sea, the fleet was joined by three cruisers from Genoa. The flotilla steamed through the rest of the night, making good speed and keeping about fifteen miles off the west coast of Corsica. At dawn they spotted an allied aircraft shadowing them. Bergamini took it as a good sign.

No one bombed ships from heights like that, not if they wanted to actually hit it. Besides, they estimated that instead of releasing their bombs at an 80-degree angle, as was normally done, they had released them at a 60-degree angle. It didn’t make any sense. Why had they done that?

At 1200, the Italian fleet, traveling in line astern formation, made its first sighting of the Strait of Bonifacio, the four-and-a-half-mile gap separating Corsica from Sardinia. Bergamini ordered a 90-degree turn toward La Maddelena. At 1340 they received news that the Germans had seized La Maddelena. Bergamini immediately ordered the fleet to reverse course 180 degrees and head to Malta. By 1400, the fleet was in sight of the Asinara, a rocky, mountainous island off the northwestern tip of Sardinia. Beyond it lay the western Mediterranean.

Then the lookouts spotted aircraft shadowing them. They were twin-engine aircraft, but flying at high altitude, and no one could tell for sure whether they were Allied or Luftwaffe. To the Italians’ surprise, they dropped bombs. But the bombs came down into the water, far from any other ships. As soon as they had, they turned and left. Everyone was bewildered. No one bombed ships from heights like that, not if they wanted to actually hit it. Besides, they estimated that instead of releasing their bombs at an 80-degree angle, as was normally done, they had released them at a 60-degree angle. It didn’t make any sense. Why had they done that? Could it be that they weren’t actually trying to hit them?

A German Fritz-X Guided Bomb in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. U.S. Air Force photo

More than an hour passed and nothing happened. Asinara Island was much closer now. Then the lookouts reported that the twin-engine aircraft were back. The lookouts identified them as German Dornier Do 217 medium bombers. Each seemed to be carrying a single, very large bomb under the wing in the space between the starboard engine and fuselage.

At 1530, the aircraft climbed from 5,000 up to 5,500 meters (18,044 feet) and then began closing in on the fleet. Bergamini ordered the ships to begin evasive maneuvers and told the AA batteries to open fire. A moment later the ships’ anti-aircraft guns started shooting, but the bombers were too high up to hit.

The bomber released its bomb and maintained its position as the bomb hurtled downward at them. Sure enough, as it came in, it became sickeningly obvious that the bomb was being steered to the target.

At 1533 the first aircraft attacked. It dropped its bomb at the same 60-degree angle as the earlier one had. But as it came down, they noticed that instead of simply falling downward, it came at them as if it were being steered. It splashed into the water, narrowly missing the stern of the battleship Italia by just a few feet. Then it exploded. A few seconds later, the Italia reported that the explosion had jammed its rudder and that it could no longer steer.

Tense minutes passed as the repair crews aboard the Italia struggled to free the rudder. While they did, messages traveled back and forth between the ships about what had happened. Several of the lookouts reported that the bomb seemed to have four long wing-like fins and a boxlike tail. Someone noted that instead of peeling off once the bomb had been released, the Dornier remained in place, flying slowly, as if it needed to stay there to guide the bomb in.

The Italian battleship Roma in her death throes, Sept. 9, 1943. Italian Navy photo

At 1545 there was another attack. The AA batteries opened fire, but again the bomber was beyond the range of their guns. The Do 217 released its bomb and maintained its position as the bomb hurtled downward toward the Italian fleet. Sure enough, as it came in, it became sickeningly obvious that the bomb was being steered to the target.

The bomb struck Roma on its starboard side aft of amidships, crashing through the ship’s seven decks, and exited the hull before exploding beneath the keel. The boiler rooms and after engine room flooded, disabling the two inboard propellers. Electrical arcing started innumerable fires throughout the after portion of the ship. Her speed now reduced to 12 knots, the Roma fell out of the battle group. By now, many of the ship’s electrically controlled systems, its directors and gun mounts were out.

What sent Roma to the bottom was the first of a wholly new class of weapon, known today as precision guided munitions (PGM). This PGM in particular was a massive 3,450-pound, armor-piercing, radio-controlled, glide bomb, which the Luftwaffe called Fritz-X.

At 1552, Roma was hit by a second bomb, again on the starboard side, this time detonating inside the forward engine room. The forward magazine detonated. There was heavy flooding in the magazines of main battery turret No. 2 as well as the forward portside secondary battery turret. A few moments later the No. 2 turret’s magazines exploded, blowing the entire turret skyward. The forward superstructure was destroyed with it, killing Bergamini, the ship’s captain, Adone Del Cima, and nearly everyone else there. Fires had broken out all over the ship. Whoever wasn’t killed was burned horribly. At 1612, Roma began going down, bow first. Then, her starboard decks awash, the Roma capsized, broke in two and sank. By 1615, she was gone, with 1,253 of her crew of 1,849 officers and men dead.

What sent Roma to the bottom was the first of a wholly new class of weapon, known today as precision guided munitions (PGM). This PGM in particular was a massive 3,450-pound, armor-piercing, radio-controlled, glide bomb, which the Luftwaffe called Fritz-X. It had been developed on the tails of the Hs 294, a more complex, but somewhat less effective, winged rocket, also deployed from a D0 217 bomber. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, the Hs 293 had already made its debut two weeks earlier, when it sank one British warship and seriously damaged two others in the Bay of Biscay.

A trial drop of a Fritz-X radio-controlled bomb. Fritz-X bombs were responsible for the sinking of the Roma. Bundesarchive photo

Unlike the Hs 293, which combined a compressed-air injection system with a binary-fuel rocket motor, Fritz-X was a simple system. To reach its target, Fritz-X mainly needed gravity. Dropped from 6,000 meters, Fritz-X came in at a nearly transsonic velocity, which is why it could go right through so many layers of deck and armor before exploding, something the Hs 293 could not do.

Fritz-X consisted of an 11-foot-long, machined steel penetrator casing, loaded with 320 kilograms of impact-fuzed amatol explosive. The bomb had four centrally mounted fins and a complex, boxlike tail structure, inside of which was a set of radio-controlled, electrically operated, oscillating spoilers that provided pitch and yaw control. Though the Fritz-X used the same radio-link receiver guidance package as the Hs 293, its control package included a gyroscope to provide roll stabilization. This was necessary, since it received controlling signals through a conformal antenna built into the tail section. The gyro ensured that the Fritz-X’s tail remained pointed at the aircraft throughout the drop.

Then, her starboard decks awash, the Roma capsized, broke in two and sank By 1615, she was gone, with 1,253 of her crew of 1,849 officers and men dead.

Guiding the Fritz-X was relatively simple. Upon release, a flare ignited in the bomb’s tail. Looking through the bombsight, the bombardier would simply line up the flare with the target, using a dual-axis, single joystick-equipped radio controller. After that, it was just a question of keeping the two lined up with each other.

For the next week, the Fritz-X repeatedly wreaked havoc at Salerno. Its first victim was the cruiser USS Savannah, which suffered more than two hundred dead when one of the glide bombs smashed into a gun turret. After that came the cruiser USS Philadelphia, followed by the Royal Navy‘s HMS Uganda, then several merchant ships and finally the British battleship Warspite. In each case, the ships were put out of action for up to a year, though all eventually went back into action. But as terrible as the damage was, it wasn’t enough to turn back the invasion.

The USS Savannah (CL 42) is hit by a German Fritz-X radio-controlled bomb while supporting Allied forces ashore during the Salerno operation, Sept. 11, 1943. The bomb hit the top of the ship’s number three gun turret and penetrated deep into her hull before exploding. This photograph shows the explosion venting through the top of the turret and also through Savannah’s hull below the waterline. A PT boat is passing by in the foreground. U.S. Naval Historical Center photo

The new weapons’ reign of terror also turned out to be short lived. As devastatingly effective as the Fritz-X and the Hs 293 might have been, they had two weaknesses. The first, the Allies figured out almost immediately: Once the Fritz-X had been dropped and started falling toward its target, the bomber needed to fly straight, level, and slow in order to guide it in. As long as the skies were uncontested, then there wasn’t a problem, but if there were any Allied fighters around, then the bomber could be easily shot down during this phase.

While none proved effective enough to allow the Germans to resume their guided bomb offensive, it did mark the beginning of a battle of measures and countermeasures, which today, 70-odd years later, shows no sign of abating.

At the same time, the British and Americans began developing electronic countermeasures to jam the radio link between the bomber and the bomb. The first Allied jammer proved ineffective, since it jammed the wrong frequencies. But subsequent improvements began to close the gap, which markedly reduced the effectiveness of the Fritz-X and Hs 293. Then an intact Hs 293 was discovered at a captured airfield up the beach from Anzio. Shortly after that, one of the radio control transmitters was recovered from a German bomber that had crashed on Corsica. The jammer developed as a result proved highly effective. By that point the Luftwaffe was already developing new variants of the two weapons that would be resistant to jamming. While none proved effective enough to allow the Germans to resume their guided bomb offensive, it did mark the beginning of a battle of measures and countermeasures, which today, 70-odd years later, shows no sign of abating.

Brendan McNally is a journalist and writer specializing in defense and aerospace. Brendan began his career.

Laser Guided Bombs

All LGB weapons have a CCG, a warhead (bomb body with fuze), and an airfoil group. The computer section transmits directional command signals to the appropriate pair(s) of canards. The guidance canards are attached to each quadrant of the control unit to change the flightpath of the weapon. The canard deflections are always full scale (referred to as "bang, bang" guidance).

The LGB flightpath is divided into three phases: ballistic, transition, and terminal guidance. During the ballistic phase, the weapon continues on the unguided trajectory established by the flightpath of the delivery aircraft at the moment of release. In the ballistic phase, the delivery attitude takes on additional importance, since maneuverability of the UGB is related to the weapon velocity during terminal guidance. Therefore, airspeed lost during the ballistic phase equates to a proportional loss of maneuverability. The transition phase begins at acquisition. During the transition phase, the weapon attempts to align its velocity vector with the line-of-sight vector to the target. During terminal guidance, the UGB attempts to keep its velocity vector aligned with the instantaneous line-of- sight. At the instant alignment occurs, the reflected laser energy centers on the detector and commands the canards to a trail position, which causes the weapon to fly ballistically with gravity biasing towards the target.

Target designators are semi-active illuminators used to "tag" a target. Typical laser guided bomb receivers use an array of photodiodes to derive target position signals. These signals are translated into control surface movements to direct the weapon to the target. An airborne detector can provide steering information to the pilot, via his gunsight, for example, and lead him on a direct heading to the target, finally giving him an aim point for a conventional weapon. Alternatively, a laser guided "smart" bomb or missile may be launched when a pilot is satisfied that the detector head has achieved lock-on and the launch envelope requirements are satisfied. In either of these cases, the pilot may never see the actual target, only the aim point as indicated by the laser.

Laser designators and seekers use a pulse coding system to ensure that a specific seeker and designator combination work in harmony. By setting the same code in both the designator and the seeker, the seeker will track only the target designated by the designator. The pulse coding is based on Pulse Repetition Frequency (PRF). The designator and seeker pulse codes use a truncated decimal system. This system uses the numerical digits 1 through 8 and the codes are directly correlated to a specific PRF. Dependent upon the laser equipment, either a three digit or a four digit code can be set. Coding allows simultaneous or nearly simultaneous attacks on multiple targets by a single aircraft, or flights of aircraft, dropping laser guided weapons (LGWs) set on different codes. This tactic may be employed when several high priority targets need to be expeditiously attacked and can be designated simultaneously by the supported unit(s).

    : Laser tracker pod used on the A-10 and A-7 aircraft. Does not contain a laser.
  • PAVE SPECTRE (AN/AVQ-19): Laser tracking and designator used on C-130 gunships. : Laser tracking and designator pod fitted on F-4 and F-111 aircraft. : Advanced optronics pod containing stabilized turret with FLIR, laser designator and tracker used on the F-4, RF-4, and F-111F aircraft.
  • PAVE ARROW (AN/AVQ-14): This was a laser tracker pod developed for use in conjunction with the PAVE SPOT laser designator used on O-2A FAC spotter planes, C-123, and was planned for use on the F-100. It was eventually merged with the PAVE SWORD program.
  • PAVE BLIND BAT: The PAVE BLIND BAT consisted of a laser target designator to illuminate targets for the PAVE WAY guided bombs. The PAVE BLIND BAT had an effective range of 18,000 feet and was developed for use by AC-130 gunships to aid supporting fighter aircraft.
  • PAVE FIRE: Development of laser scanner to aid F-4 Phantoms in securing proper target bearing.
  • PAVE GAT: Development of a laser rangefinder for use on the B-52G.
  • PAVE KNIFE (AN/ALQ-10): The original laser designator pod developed by Aeronutronic-Ford and used in combat in Vietnam.
  • PAVE LANCE: Developmental effort to replace the PAVE KNIFE by improving night capability with the addition of a FLIR in place of the low light television (LLTV). Superseded by PAVE TACK.
  • PAVE LIGHT (AN/AVQ-9): Stabilized laser designator developed for the F-4 Phantom.
  • PAVE NAIL (AN/AVQ-13): Modification of 18 OV-10 FAC aircraft with stabilized periscopic night sight and laser designator. Program coordinated with PAVE PHANTOM and PAVE SPOT.
  • PAVE PHANTOM: Addition of an ARN-92 Loran and computer to the F-4D allowing aircraft to store targeting information for eight separate positions illuminated by OV-10 PAVE NAIL.
  • PAVE PRONTO: Modification of AC-130 gunships for night attack including an LLTV Electro systems night observation camera, AAD-4, or AAD-6 FLIR and AVQ-17 illuminator.
  • PAVE SCOPE: Target acquisition aids for jet fighter aircraft such as the Eagle Eye (LAD) AN/AVG-8, and TISEO.
  • PAVE SHIELD: Classified project undertaken by Aeronautical Research Associates.
  • PAVE SPOT (AN/AVQ-12): Stabilized periscopic night vision sight developed by Varo for use on the O-2A FAC. The system was fitted with a Korad laser designator (ND:YAG).
  • PAVE STRIKE: A related group of air-to-ground strike programs include PAVE TACK and IR guided bombs.
  • PAVE SWORD (AN/AVQ-11): Laser tracker designed to pick up energy from targets illuminated by O-2A spotter planes. Used on F-4, and bore sighted with its radar set.

LGBs are not a "cure all" for the full spectrum of targets and scenarios facing fighter/attack aircraft, but they do offer advantages in standoff and accuracy over other types of free fall weapons in the inventory. In a high threat environment, LGB will be employed in a range of missions from close air support [CAS] to interdiction.

LGB are excellent performers in dive deliveries initiated from medium altitude. A steep, fast dive attack increases LGB maneuvering potential and flight ability. Medium altitude attacks generally reduce target acquisition problems and more readily allow for target designation by either ground or airborne designation platforms. Medium altitude LGB dive delivery tactics are normally used in areas of low to medium threat.

LGBs can miss the target if the laser is turned on too early. During certain delivery profiles where the LGB sees laser energy as soon as it is released, it can turn from its delivery profile too soon and miss by falling short of the target. To prevent this, the laser designator must be turned on at the time that will preclude the bomb from turning down toward the target prematurely. Normally, the pilot knows the proper moment for laser on. The specific LGB and the delivery tactics of the fighter/attack aircraft dictates the minimum designation time required to guide the weapon to the intended target.

The effects of smoke, dust, and debris can impair the use of laser-guided munitions. The reflective scattering of laser light by smoke particles may present false targets. Rain, snow, fog, and low clouds can prevent effective use of laser-guided munitions. Heavy precipitation can limit the use of laser designators by affecting line-of-sight. Snow on the ground can produce a negative effect on laser-guided munition accuracy. Fog and low clouds will block the laser-guided munition seeker's field of view which reduces the guidance time. This reduction may affect the probability of hit.

The three generations of Paveway LGB technology exist, each successive generation representing a change or modification in the guidance mechanism. Paveway I was a series of laser guided bombs with fixed wings. Paveway II [with retractable wings] and Paveway III are the Air Force designations for 500- and 2,000-pound-class laser-guided bombs (LGBs). A guidance control unit is attached to the front of the bomb, and a wing assembly is attached on the rear. Both generations are compatible with current Army, Navy (Marine), and Air Force designators. Paveway II and III have preflight selectable coding. Paveway III is the third-generation LGB, commonly called the low-level laser-guided bomb (LLLGB). It is designed to be used under relatively low ceilings, from low altitude, and at long standoff ranges.

During Desert Storm, the F-111F and the F-117 accounted for the majority of the guided bomb tonnage delivered against strategic targets. The Navy's A-6E capability to deliver LGBs was used only sparingly, despite the fact that the 115 A-6Es deployed constituted almost 51 percent of all US LGB-capable aircraft on the first day of Desert Storm. laser sensor systems demonstrated degradation from adverse weather, such as clouds, rain, fog, and even haze and humidity.

Videotapes of LGBs precisely traveling down ventilator shafts and destroying targets with one strike, like those televised during and after Desert Storm, can easily create impressions about the effect of a single LGB on a single target, which was summed up by an LGB manufacturer's claim for effectiveness: "one target, one bomb." The implicit assumption in this claim is that a target is sufficiently damaged or destroyed to avoid needing to hit it again with a second bomb, thus obviating the need to risk pilots or aircraft in restrikes. However, evidence does not support the claim for LGB effectiveness summarized by "one target, one bomb." In one sample of targets from Desert Storm, no fewer than two LGBs were dropped on each target six or more were dropped on 20 percent of the targets eight or more were dropped on 15 percent of the targets. The average dropped was four LGBs per target.

In Desert Storm, 229 US aircraft were capable of delivering laser-guided munitions. By 1996 the expanded installation of low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) pods on F-15Es and block 40 F-16s had increased this capability within the Air Force to approximately 500 platforms.