Air Weapons: October 31, 2002


The U.S. Navy is looking at a much higher ammunition bill in any future war (Iraq or elsewhere.) In Afghanistan, the Navy dropped nearly 6000 bombs, but only about ten percent were "dumb bombs." The rest were more expensive missiles and smart bombs. Although the new JDAM costs only about 20 percent as much as Gulf War smart bombs, only a few percent of the bombs dropped during the Gulf War were of the smart variety. Dumb bombs cost one or two thousand dollars each. But it's so much more effective (in hitting targets) to use smart bombs, that you actually save money. That's because the typical 5-9 hour bombing mission in Afghanistan cost $10-20,000 to operate the aircraft (plus nearly as much for support aircraft). Carrying four smart bombs allowed the aircraft to take out two or three targets. With dumb bombs, it would take ten or more aircraft to destroy the same number of targets, and increase the risk of losing aircraft. But this increased efficiency means that carrier warplanes will be asked to attack more targets, keeping the aircraft cost the same and putting the munitions cost through the roof. 


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