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[infowar.de] OS 21.03.03: Computerized weapons aim at increasingly specific targets
The Orlando Sentinel March 21, 2003
Computerized weapons aim at increasingly specific targets
By Christopher Boyd
Sentinel Staff Writer
The defining moment in the war on Iraq might be its opening act -- the
ambitious missile and bomb attack on a Baghdad building where Saddam
Hussein and two of his sons were thought to be meeting.
Trying to take out Iraq's leader with the war's opening shots was
audacious, but the tools of the attack -- computer-guided weapons -- are
nearly as striking. Technology developed in the past decade has turned
powerful but relatively inaccurate bombs and rockets into surgically
"In World War II, the object was to take out a German power plant. Now, the
object is to disable the generator inside the power plant," said Harlan
Ullman, a military analyst with the Center of Strategic and International
Studies in Washington, D.C. "The technology may not be perfect, but it is
very good. You can now take out a target with one or two weapons that would
have once required a major mission."
If all goes as planned, the armed forces will sweep across Iraq without
devastating it. Guided missiles and so-called smart bombs will strike
targets with pinpoint accuracy -- not only hitting individual buildings,
but actually targeting rooms within those buildings.
The Tomahawk cruise missiles being fired on Baghdad had guidance systems
that could be configured in minutes. The Tomahawks that dazzled television
viewers during the Gulf War of 1991 could take days to program.
Improvements in military technology in the past decade parallel dramatic
advances in computers, optics and communications that have changed daily
life. Just as personal computers have become smaller and many times faster,
the guidance systems underlying the latest weapons are exponentially improved.
If the war in Iraq involves large air and ground actions, they will be far
better organized than military campaigns of the past. One of the key
components on the battlefield will be a flying command post built in
Melbourne by Northrop Grumman -- the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack
Radar Systems, or Joint STARS.
Think of a Joint STARS as the director's chair in the theater of battle.
Flying miles above Earth, the plane is packed with a huge arsenal of
electronics that coordinates a battlefield. It gathers vast amounts of data
from the ground and air. Using Global Positioning System satellites, the
Joint STARS can direct an airstrike against enemy positions almost as
quickly as they are identified.
But as Joint STARS and other airborne command posts orchestrate battles, a
new array of equipment will likely be used for specific actions.
Precision-guided weaponry accounted for about 10 percent of all the bombs
dropped on Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War. This time, about 90
percent of the ordnance will arrive on target guided by lasers and satellites.
The joint air-to-surface stand-off (JASSM), built by Lockheed Martin's
Missiles and Fire Control Division in Orlando and Dallas, is an advanced
missile that might be used in combat for the first time in Iraq. The
stealthy weapon with a range of 200 miles is satellite-guided and uses an
infrared device to recognize targets.
Other weapons will appear with improvements. Upgraded conventional bombs
called JDAMs (joint direct attack munitions) turn the streams of bombs
dropped from the bellies of B-52s into weapons with pinpoint accuracy.
"The very high success that we had with these new weapons in Afghanistan
proved their value," said Peter Arment, vice president of JSA Research, a
military research firm in Newport, R.I.
Afghanistan offered a glimpse of what the military has developed. President
Bush's pledge to hit Iraq with stunning strength suggests that a wider
assortment of new technology will be unveiled during the campaign.
In Afghanistan, troops arrived with night-vision goggles and weapons. In
Iraq, the military expects to own the night using the technology. Like much
of the Pentagon's new equipment, night vision has broad use outside the
military. Today's television images of Baghdad under night attack now offer
much better resolution than those broadcast in 1991.
All the new and improved weapons are designed to have a single effect:
overwhelming the Iraqi army so completely that it capitulates.
"The United States is gambling that the precision of its weaponry and the
speed of the attack will prompt Saddam's forces to simply run away," said
John Pike, a military analyst and director of director of
GlobalSecurity.org in Washington. "Warfare is ultimately about the
psychology of the combatants, and battles are normally decided by breaking
the will of the enemy to resist."
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