Air Weapons: January 28, 2003


The Air Force had amassed a stockpile of 17,000 Joint Direct Attack Munition kits, which turn a 2,000-pound bomb into a satellite-guided precision weapon. About 6,000 of these kits are already in the Persian Gulf region. Precision-guided bombs amounted to 7% of those dropped in the 1991 war, about 35% of those used in the 1999 Kosovo War, and about 50% of those used in Afghanistan. After the 11 Sept 01 terrorist attacks and the subsequent start of the War on Terror, production of JDAM kits was increased from 750 per month to 2,000 per month; a new contract will push monthly production to 2,800 per month by August. About 6,000 were dropped during the Afghanistan campaign. The Air Force plans to buy a total of 236,000 JDAM kits, of which some will be used by the Navy and Marines. JDAMs are less accurate than laser-guided weapons (landing within thirty-three feet of their targets instead of within six feet), but can be used in bad weather and do not require a laser-designator pod on the fighter that drops them. The Air Force has kits on hand to convert 23,000 bombs into laser-guided weapons (most of them on 500-pound bombs), needed for some targets that must be struck with great precision and with minimal collateral damage. Of the 23,000, about 9,800 are on the largest 2,000-pound bombs. About 7,000 laser-guided weapons were used in Afghanistan. The Air Force also has about 6,000 cheaper but less accurate Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers, about 700 of which were used in Afghanistan. Most of these are fitted to cluster bombs which attack wide-area targets, so great precision is not needed. The Wind-Corrected kits are mostly intended to keep the bombs from wandering entirely out of the target area. There are also about 2,500 Sensor Fuzed Weapons on hand, each of which scatters 40 heat-seeking anti-tank bomblets over an area of 30 acres. These would be used on Iraqi armored formations that were on the move.--Stephen V Cole


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