Air Weapons: February 4, 2003

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Before September 11, 2001, the U.S. Air Force was pushing new tactics that featured a few Special Forces or commando troops on the ground, accompanied by air force controllers (to call in air strikes) and lots of air power overhead. Afghanistan proved that this approach will work. The air force has become very fond of these guys on the ground, using the latest technology (laser ranger finders, computers, GPS and satellite radios) to precisely locate lots of targets for the smart bombs to hit. This has made possible a new, and as yet untried, tactic; large scale simultaneous bombing. JDAM smart bombs are the key to this unique air attack tactic. Because JDAMs use GPS (global positioning satellites) navigation, you can load the location of bomb targets into the smart bombs navigation system ahead of time. You don't have to worry about fog or stormy weather (that can interfere with laser guided and other types of smart bombs.) Doing this on a large scale can produce a "simultaneous strategic bombing strike" (or SSBS). 

Picture hundreds of bombers (large and small) flying into Iraq carrying several thousand of pre-programmed smart bombs. While heavy bombers can carry up to two dozen 2000 pound JDAMs, there are now smaller JDAMs available as well. This enables the same aircraft to carry more bombs. Many targets don't require a 2000 bomb, and smaller aircraft (like F-16s, F-18s and F-15s) can carry six to a dozen 500 pound JDAMs. This makes it possible for, say, 200 bombers (from F-16s to B-52s) to carry nearly 2000 JDAMs for a single simultaneous strike. Several hundred cruise missiles launched from ships and subs can be added to this attack. 

At a prearranged time, all the bombs are released so that they all hit their targets at about the same time. Suddenly, everyone in the Iraqi armed forces is under attack. It's long been known that firepower, be it artillery or bombs, is a lot more effective if the target doesn't know it's coming. Once the first bomb hits, and the word gets around, the other enemy troops head for cover and the damage done is much less. For example, the Iraqis plan to move a lot of their military equipment and vehicles to residential neighborhoods once the bombing campaign begins. But if there is one big attack, there's wont be time to move anything. And after the attack, not much will be capable of moving.

If you could drop thousands of bombs, precisely, all at once, the effect of surprise would greatly increase the damage done. This is called strategic surprise, and it's never been done like SSBS before. The effect on the Iraqis would be paralysis and the collapse of morale and the ability to fight back. Depending on what shape Iraq's anti-aircraft defenses are in, the attack might be preceded by cruise missiles destroying anti-aircraft radars and missile launchers. This would take place at night, as would the bombers flying in with the JDAMs. 

A lot depends on precisely identifying all the targets. This can be done from the air or by satellite. In the case of well hidden targets, you need people on the ground, like Special Forces patrols, using laser range finders to collect the coordinates for the JDAMS. 

This one attack could be immediately followed up by Rangers and Special Forces arriving by helicopter or parachute and taking lightly garrisoned airfields and other bases. Armored units would immediately move out and go after larger military units, which would not be in much mood, or shape, to fight. All of this is classic blitzkrieg, as first practiced between 1939 and 41. Back then, the Germans had the technological and tactical advantage and used it. Since then, there have been other cases of such large scale surprise attacks (the Israelis against Egypt in 1967, the Egyptians against the Israelis in 1973, Russians in Afghanistan in 1979 and so on.) If you have a new weapon and are bold enough to use it, you can win a quick victory. As the British SAS commandos like to put it, "Who dares, wins."


 


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