Pentagon: U.S. bombing accuracy improved in Afghan war
April 9, 2002 Posted: 10:51 AM EDT (1451 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) — An initial U.S. Navy analysis of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan has concluded that 75 percent of all munitions dropped by Navy and Marine Corps aircraft destroyed or disabled the intended target, according to an official familiar with the study.
By comparison, roughly half the munitions dropped during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and Kosovo in 1999 had a similar effectiveness, the study calculated.
The key difference appears to be the military's increased use of advanced technology to aim the munitions initially and also to guide them to their targets after launch.
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Sixty percent of all munitions dropped in Afghanistan by the United States were precision weapons, the official said. Only a small fraction of the munitions dropped in the Gulf War were the so-called "smart bombs," or guided weapons.
In Afghanistan, precision weapons hit their intended targets 90 percent of the time, the official said. More than 22,000 bombs and missiles have been dropped since the war began October 7. The Air Force dropped about 75 percent of all weapons.
Navy officials said the improvement in the effectiveness of their weapons underscores a basic change in war strategy since Kosovo.
In Kosovo and the Gulf War, precision weapons were viewed as "opening day" weapons that would be used in the initial hours of a conflict when territory might still be heavily defended by enemy forces and the risks to U.S. pilots remained high.
Then in subsequent days, larger numbers of unguided or "dumb" bombs were used as enemy forces were degraded and risks became lower.
Now more guided weapons are being used at a greater rate, thereby reducing the number of aircraft missions and wear and tear on aircraft and pilots.
The effectiveness of precision weapons is due to continued improvements in pilot proficiency, increased overall inventory of precision munitions and innovative targeting techniques in Afghanistan, Navy officials said.
In Afghanistan, Special Forces units on the ground appear to have provided highly accurate laser designation of targets.
However, military officials acknowledged that some weapons missed their targets causing unintended collateral damage.
The Pentagon is in the initial stages of studying lessons learned from the Afghan campaign.
The Air Force's Checkmate and Navy's Deep Blue groups are looking at initial data to determine what can be learned for future wars. For example, the Deep Blue group is developing a five-year plan for the Navy to maintain readiness and fighting capabilities in the war on terrorism.