Britain has finally found an export customer for its Paveway IV laser/GPS guided smart bomb. The customer was not identified at first but was later revealed to be Saudi Arabia. To make this sale Britain first had to overcome American attempts to block the sale. That is always a problem with weapons that incorporate American technology as the U.S. always retains the right to regulate the export U.S. weapons tech. But since Paveway IV is largely a British development (based on the American original Paveway) the British lawyers, diplomats and courts were able to clear the way for Paveway IV export sales in general.
Paveway IV was developed in Britain and is not used by the U.S. Air Force or Navy. Introduced in 2008, over a thousand 500 pound (228 kg) Paveway IVs have been dropped in combat so far. In the U.S. JDAM and other GPS-only weapons are much more popular, although some Paveway I/II/III type bombs are still used.
The U.S. and Britain are jointly developing more upgrades for the Paveway IV smart bomb. The improvements include a low explosive version (to limit collateral damage), another version has a penetrator cap (to hit underground bunkers) which is a novel feature for a 228 kg bomb. There are also improvements in the American anti-jamming technology as well as the laser seeker technology.
Paveway IV is actually a 50.5 kg (111 pound) kit that is attached to an unguided bomb. The 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.
Once attached to a one ton, half ton, or quarter ton bomb, the Paveway IV can achieve precise (within a meter or less) accuracy using a laser designator. Now there is also 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 had laser guidance only. Britain has since added GPS to Paveway IV. 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.