Warplanes: March 9, 2004


One reason U.S. Army troops like the A-10 aircraft, is because they can see it when it comes along to tear up near by enemy troops. That's the way it's been since 1915, when aircraft began carrying weapons and using them against ground troops on a large scale. But all that changed in 2001. Most of the air support in Afghanistan was from aircraft 2-6 miles up in the air. At night or in bad weather, you couldn't even see them, or hear them. But you radioed up the GPS coordinates and were told that the bomb would hit the target in two or three minutes. For the younger troops, who had little or no experience of fighter bombers roaring in to drop bombs, the new procedure was quickly accepted as "the way things work." The GPS guided smart bombs were more accurate, and caused fewer friendly fire losses, than the use of dumb bombs dropped by aircraft flying close to the ground. But the older troops were a little unnerved. They expected to smell some unburned jet fuel (which low flying warplanes leave in their wake) when they heard a nearby bomb go off. Seeing the incoming aircraft was also considered a matter of safety, because you could usually spot the bomb being dropped at the wrong time (which happened often enough to keep the troops on their toes) and give you a chance to jump into a bunker or crouch lower in your foxhole when the bomb looked to be heading more for you than the bad guys. But this new GPS/smart bomb stuff gave you no clue when the damn bomb would arrive, or where. So far, there have been so few friendly fire incidents with the smart bombs that the ground troops are getting used to bombs coming out of nowhere. Still, the older troops will still look skyward when a bomb is on the way, just to be safe.




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