Editor’s Note: Long gone are the days of carpet-bombing and turning entire cities into rubble while trying to attack a small number of targets. Weapons technology has developed to a point where a Precision-Guided Munition can be dropped from beyond visual range, and impact a specific target so accurately the surrounding building or buildings are hardly touched–if at all in some cases. In a day and age of accountability for one’s actions, PGMs make strike fighter and bomber crews surgeons, as opposed to indiscriminate gunslingers.

Lessons learned in past conflicts have now made it possible to bomb enemy targets within just a few feet to reduce collateral damage, a top Air Force commander said Feb. 25 at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium.

Since World War II, the accuracy of bombing attacks has improved from around 3,300 feet away from a target to only 10 feet in current operations.

“We went from missing a target by over half a mile as the norm to literally putting (numerous) 2,000-pound (joint direct attack munitions) through the same hole,” Lt. Gen. Charles Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said at the symposium.

Precision-Guided Munitions: Max Effect, Minimum Damage!
Six GBU-38 munitions are dropped by a B-1B Lancer aircraft onto an insurgent torture house and prison in Northern Zambraniyah, Iraq, March 10, 2008. The munitions drop was cleared by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Aton, a joint terminal attack controller from Fort Hood Texas, and deployed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway) (Released)

Brown pointed to two reasons for the advent of precision-guided bombs.

“The innovation of Airmen and industry to pursue advances in technology were applied to a problem of achieving increased accuracy, and second, merging (that) innovation with the successes and lessons of past conflicts,” Brown said.

Improvements to the Air Force’s GPS satellite constellation, which launched its last Block IIF-type satellite in early February, could place airstrikes even closer. The next round of GPS satellites, Block III, is expected to begin launching next year.

“If we don’t have GPS, it would be very difficult,” Brown said. “GPS is hugely important in what we do. All of our partners across the region are dropping GPS-guided munitions.”

Of all the weapons deployed in the command’s region, 99 percent of them are precision guided.

“Because we have that capability, it allows us to take very few weapons and to use them to greater effect,” he said.

The article in its entirety can be viewed here.

(Featured photo by Jonathan Derden)