Warplanes: March 1, 2000

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In an attempt to shut down the Serbian electrical power grid without permanent damage, the US employed CBU-102(V)2/B bombs against transformer yards. [The Air Force had initially referred to the weapons as CBU-94.] Each bomb carried 202 BLU-114 submunitions, and each submunition carried 147 spools of special thread specially enhanced to conduct electricity. Each spool had about 450 feet of thread. [The Air Force has always, unofficially, referred to the thread as carbon fiber, but Russian analysis says that the threads were made of glass and aluminum.] The resulting cloud of carbon fiber descended "like a spider web" on the transformers, shorting them out. It took the Serbs about 15 hours to remove the threads from the first attack, and four hours for each subsequent attack. Whenever the wind stirred up, however, it would blow in more fibers from nearby trees or the ground, effectively causing another attack until all of the material had been removed. Because the bombs were unguided, F-117 fighters had to dip below 10,000 feet to release them accurately. New guided versions of the weapon based on the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser, can be dropped accurately from 30,000 feet. The attacks were intended to inconvenience the civilian population and fan discontent for the war. The attempt was not particularly successful in that regard. Because the Serbs became so adept at removing the conductive threads, the US switched to actually destroying the transformers with individual laser-guided bombs, knocking out 70% of civilian electrical power for weeks or months. The Serbs recovered samples of the wire and of the bomb itself, and handed them over to Russia for analysis.--Stephen V Cole


 


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