Electronic Weapons: Protecting Anti-Jamming Technology


April 2, 2012: The U.S. and Britain are having a rather heated but hushed argument over whether British developed smart bombs with American anti-jamming technology should be exported to Saudi Arabia. The smart bomb in question is the Paveway IV, which is a dual guidance (laser/GPS) kit that is attached to an unguided bomb. The 50.5 kg (111 pound) Paveway kit contains guidance electronics, computers, and battery powered winglets. But to work the carrying aircraft must have a fire control system that enables the pilot to get the GPS data (received from troops on the ground) into the Paveway IV equipped bomb.

The Paveway IV system is actually a guidance kit that, once attached to a one ton, half ton, or quarter ton bomb, can achieve precise (within a meter or less) accuracy using a laser designator, or use GPS guidance to land within ten meters (31 feet) of the aiming point. The U.S. firm that manufactures the Paveway bombs, Raytheon, has produced over 250,000 kits so far, of which about twenty percent have been used in combat with great success.

Earlier versions of Paveway did not have GPS. Most just only had laser guidance. While more accurate, laser guidance requires that someone on the ground or in the air be shining a laser on the target. The Paveway then homes in on the reflected laser light (of a particular frequency). GPS guided bombs can hit the target under bad weather conditions and only have to worry about jamming of the GPS satellite signal.

The Paveway IV was developed in Britain and is not used by the U.S. Air Force or Navy. In the U.S. JDAM and other GPS-only weapons are much more popular. The U.S. has taken the lead in developing jamming-resistant GPS systems for smart bombs and apparently does not want to risk someone in Saudi Arabia paying a large bribe to get hold of the American anti-jamming technology. The Saudis are very upset about this, but corruption is quite widespread through the region, not just in Saudi Arabia. If a potential enemy got access to details of the anti-jamming technology they could more easily develop techniques to defeat it.



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