Air Weapons: March 8, 2004


: Finally, a solution for BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment). Maybe. The U.S. Air Force has, for over sixty years, had major problems with finding out exactly what their bombs did on the ground. BDA is usually performed by a reconnaissance aircraft, or UAV, the flies in after the bombing to take pictures that will either confirm the target was destroyed, or indicate that more bombs are needed. Unfortunately, as the air force has discovered time and again, these pictures were often deceiving (and the deception is often deliberately enhanced by enemy efforts to make the undamaged target look totaled.) The latest sure fire solution is to have the bomb do it's own BDA. This is possible because video cameras have gotten so small (and cheap) that you can have a small video camera unit separate from the rear of the bomb before detonation takes place, take some pix of the bomb exploding and immediate aftermath, and broadcast those pictures back to the bomber, where the pilot can promptly (with the help of some special image analysis software) decide if the target is really toast, or needs more attention. The pictures transmitted back would be pretty high resolution because of new compression technology that gets a compression ratio of about 100:1. The army is testing the same technology to have mortars, or 40mm grenade launchers, firing camera (and parachute) equipped shells that snap a few quick pix of what's "out there" and transmits them instantly to a nearby commander who can view them on a laptop or PDA. The air force feels, with some justification, that if this stuff works for the ground pounders, why not for pilots? Time will tell.


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