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DEATH FROM THE SKY; WAR IN THE GULF: Weapons are more accurate than ever ... now it's down to humans to get it right.

Byline: NICK COOK; Jane's Defence Weekly expert

THE US and UK have developed a comprehensive and accurate range of weapons capable of dealing with almost any target.

The computer guidance technology which can make them pinpoint-accurate - subject to humans keying in the right co-ordinates - will make this the most deadly aerial assault in wartime history.

The MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) was revealed by the US only last week. It's a 21,000- lb explosive which creates a massive blast wave, much like an atomic cloud, except it's not nuclear.

It's a relative of the Daisy Cutter, which was used in the first Gulf War and in Afghanistan, where it was dropped in front of caves and created a vacuum in the immediate area, sucking all the air away.

In Iraq, it could be used to clear minefields, as the Daisy Cutter was 12 years ago. But it also has an intense psychological effect because it looks almost like a nuclear explosion going off.

In 1991, they dropped the Daisy Cutters close to Iraqi forward positions. If they did a leaflet drop saying: "Tomorrow we're going to come back and drop one of these things on you," many Iraqi soldiers would simply just drop their weapons and give up.

Newer weapons include the Graphite bomb, which disperses in the air, and the electromagnetic "microwave" bomb, which sends out a massive pulse of energy.

The Graphite bomb was used in the 1999 conflict in Serbia and Kosovo. It disperses carbon fibre filaments over a given area of ground and is particularly aimed at power stations. The filaments touch the lines and temporarily short-circuit them.

The electromagnetic microwave or pulse bomb is designed to send a pulse of high energy into the electronics of radar systems, computer systems and even the ignitions of vehicles.

Both fall into the non-lethal weaponry category, which the USA in particular has shown interest in over the past five years.

The Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and Paveway Missiles are more traditional "hard kill" bombs.

The Tomahawks have been much improved since they were last used in the Gulf in 1991. Now updated with satellite guidance, they can fly through smoke and cloud without being swayed from the target.

Laser-guided weaponry took a pasting during the Serbian conflict because bad weather at that time meant the RAF, in particular, had difficulty using these weapons, which require clear weather.

You need to designate the target with a laser and you can't do that if there's cloud or smoke between you and the target.

What the RAF have done since then is add GPS (global positioning system) satellite guidance to the Paveway II and III laser-guided bombs.

JDAM (joint direct attack munition) is a satellite-guided bomb, which falls to within a few metres of its target. First used in the Serbia conflict, they are relatively new.

The Bunker-Buster was used extensively in the 1991 Gulf War, with the most effective model the GBU-28.

It has a penetration capability through soil and concrete of about 30 feet.

The Stormshadow Cruise Missile has recently entered RAF service.

It has a 250km range, with a small jet engine and a powerful warhead which has some capacity for use against bunkers. It is likely to be used in the coming conflict.

In 1991 in the Gulf, barely 10 per cent of the weaponry used was precision- guided, the rest were dumb bombs. That statistic has since been turned on its head.

In Afghanistan, 10 per cent of the weapons were dumb bombs and 90 per cent were guided.

This should lead to fewer civilian deaths but the human element has to be taken into account.

Your reconnaissance and intelligence need to be accurate. Human error tends to be the weak link in the chain now.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 19, 2003
Words:630
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