Air Weapons: January 4, 2005


American air force and navy pilots have found new ways to provide air support,  besides just circling high above and releasing smart bombs on command from guys on the ground. The 20mm automatic cannon carried on F-16s, F-18s and F-15s, using new, longer range ammo and improved computer gun sights, now enables pilots to come in low and spray a room, or other small area, with a short burst (80-100 20mm rounds.) There is also a new, frangible 20mm round that, after penetrating a wall or thin armor, flies apart into dozens of lethal fragments. In Iraq, enemy snipers have learned that being in a building that a pilot can get a shot at is not a good idea. Pilots have also used Maverick missiles to take out snipers, or rooms where enemy troops are located. The 500-600 pound Mavericks comes with many different guidance systems, and a 125 pound or 300 pound warhead. This allows the Maverick to be used when friendly troops are nearby, the only alternative being the 500 pound smart bomb. 

Most of these aircraft can carry eight Mavericks, and enough 20mm ammo for 5-6 attacks. The Predator UAV is also a favorite for city fighting, because of the very accurate Hellfire missiles it carries. Weighing only 100 pounds, with a 20 pound warhead, the Hellfire can be put through a window. The Predator also has a laser designator which can be used to identify a target for a Maverick missile fired by a warplane higher up. The ground troops depend on the warplanes and Predators for instant reinforcements when they find themselves facing too many enemy gunmen. 


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