Warplanes: May 26, 2001

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SENSOR FUZED WEAPONS: HOW TO WIN WARS WITHOUT AN ARMY; A key element of modern US war plans is the Sensor Fuzed Weapon. The Air Force plans to buy 2700 CBU-97s (Cluster Bomb Units) and 2300 CBU-97P3I Pre-Planned Product Improvement versions of the Sensor Fuzed Weapon. The Air Force has 1500 CBU-97s on hand with another 1200 on order and another 1300 planned. The first CBU-97-P3Is should be available by the end of 2002. The Sensor Fuzed Weapon is a Tactical Munitions Dispenser that houses ten BLU-108 submunitions. Each of these has four target-sensing Skeet warheads which detect targets and detonate, firing an Explosively Formed Projectile into the thin top armor of tanks and other armored vehicles. In theory, a Sensor Fuzed Weapon dropped on a column of advancing armored vehicles could just about put a battalion (of tanks, mech infantry, or artillery) out of action. Strike aircraft, refueling at local bases after flights from the US, would be used to destroy any advancing armored attack on a US ally such as Saudi Arabia or South Korea. To the extent that the idea of rapid response and fighting two regional wars at once has any validity, it would be strike aircraft (F-15, F-16, F-18, A-10) with Sensor Fuzed Weapons that blunt the initial enemy invasion. The CBU-97-P3I version has several enhancements over the CBU-97. The Skeet warheads will be improved, with better abilities to detect targets and avoid being distracted by decoys. Each warhead will gain 16 fragments that could knock out trucks and would have some effect on infantry, giving the weapon and improved ability to deal with this type of target. An improved radar altimeter would allow the CBU-97P3I to explode higher, spreading its munitions over twice the area. The current CBU-97 is likely to get two or three hits on some targets as it puts more munitions into an area than normal combat deployment puts armored vehicles into the same area. All 5,000 CBU-97/97P3Is will get Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser tail kits, becoming CBU-105s and CBU-105P3Is. This will improve the accuracy to within 30m in all kinds of weather. More importantly, it will allow the weapon to be dropped from 40,000 feet (rather than the current 20,000 feet), which will allow B-52, B-1, and B-2 bombers to carry it. In theory, an entire enemy armored division could be taken out of action by a single bomber loaded with Sensor Fuzed Weapons. As a practical matter, such perfect target alignment would never happen, but even so, being able to shut down the 1991 invasion of Kuwait in a single strike of the B-2 wing flying directly from Missouri would mean that future wars could be contained quickly. One would have to assume, however, than an enemy knowing this could happen would take tactical or technological steps to avoid being slaughtered quite so easily.--Stephen V Cole

 


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