Murphy's Law: October 3, 2002


While laser and GPS guided "smart bombs" get a lot of credit for the increasing success of airpower, it's often forgotten that pilots and ground crews are still finding ways to make the technology do things that need to be done, but that the technology isn't quite ready to handle yet. There were two good examples of this in Afghanistan. One was the problem of using smart bombs against moving targets. Pilots quickly learned how to "lead" fast moving (80 kilometers an hour or more) vehicle convoys with laser guided bombs. The key was keeping the laser spotting beam ahead of the convoy to compensate for the fact that this laser bomb technology was not built for this sort of thing. But since many pilots have engineering degrees, and their ground crews are known for their resourcefulness, working out these things was not a major problem. A similar situation arose when an F-14 pilot was asked to provide ground support for troops who didn't have the specialized laser binoculars used to get the exact coordinates for the GPS bomb the aircraft was carrying. But the pilot, being a bit of a geek, had studied the newly upgraded software of his LANTRIN targeting pod and remembered that the LANTRIN laser designator now had the capability to obtain coordinates of anything on the ground (using three laser bursts, and then triangulation calculations by the LANTRIN computer.) The pilot used that to drop the bomb where the ground troops needed it. Ground crew and pilots put their heads to provide the Maverick laser guided missile with more flexibility when fired from an F-18, and so on. As the old saying goes, it's the workman, not his tools, that determines how well a job is done.


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