Air Weapons: April 15, 2003


While the U.S. Air Force is feeling quite good about it's performance in the Iraq war, there are already some disquieting trends appearing. For one thing, the star of the show was not the aircraft, but the weapons. More specifically, the JDAM GPS bombs. These weapons need little from the aircraft beyond dropping the bombs within a few kilometers of the target selected by the folks on the ground. While the air force still pushes finding targets from the air, and then bombing them, this has not always worked as well as people on the ground determining what is going to be hit. And then there are the bad memories of what happened the last time the air force fought the Iraqis. After the 1991 war, when it battlefield was examined, about half the "destroyed" Iraqi armored vehicles turned out to have been abandoned, and sometimes destroyed, by the Iraqis themselves. Of the other half that coalition forces hit, only a third of those were hit from the air. Some army wags are trying to reassure the air force guys by commenting that all those smart bombs often scare the Iraqis into abandoning their vehicles. This makes it easier for the ground troops to destroy them. But what the air force is really worrying about is the fact that most of the bombs were again dropped by older, cheaper and generally lower tech aircraft. The most prominent bomber of this type is the fifty year old B-52. Kind of hard to make a case for a new F-22 as a bomber when the BUFF is still doing the job.


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