March 4, 2010:
The U.S. is sending a thousand laser guided bomb kits (that turn unguided bombs into smart bombs) to Pakistan (700 kits for 227kg/500 pound bombs, and 300 for 909kg/2,000 pounders). Last month, Pakistan received a thousand 227kg/500 pound bombs and had earlier received hundreds of JDAM (GPS guided) bomb kits. The Pakistanis prefer the laser guided bombs, because of their superior accuracy inside villages or urban areas.
Over the last three years, the U.S. has sold Pakistan 18 Sniper XR targeting pods, to equip some of its F-16D fighters. These pods are all the rage with fighter pilots. The latest generation of these pods contain FLIR (video quality night vision infrared radar) and high resolution TV cameras that enable pilots flying at 20,000 feet to clearly make out what is going on down there. The pods also contain laser designators for laser guided bombs, and laser range finders that enable pilots to get coordinates for JDAM (GPS guided) bombs. Safely outside the range of most anti-aircraft fire (five kilometers up, and up to fifty kilometers away), pilots can literally see the progress of ground fighting, and have even been acting as aerial observers for ground forces. These new capabilities also enable pilots to more easily find targets themselves, and hit them with highly accurate laser guided or JDAM bombs. While bombers still get target information from ground controllers for close (to friendly troops) air support, they can now go searching on their own, in areas where there are no friendly ground troops.
Pakistan has used the pods for counter-terrorism missions, where a few F-16s can provide bombing support for widely dispersed troops out hunting tribal rebels and terrorists. The F-16 with the pod could see clearly what is happening on the ground, and, if needed, drop a smart bomb precisely. The smart bombs and targeting pods have proved to be a decisive weapon in the tribal territories. The accuracy limits casualties to unarmed civilians, while the targeting pods enable pilots to spot the guys with guns.