07 September 2007

Poor Man's Smart Bomb

Amazing Improvised Smart Bombs

Here's a case of smart bombs with a clever, and unexpected, twist. The Lebanese air force created an improvised helicopter bombing system for their recent operations against several hundred Islamic terrorists who had barricaded themselves in a northern town (technically a Palestinian refugee camp).

Needing some precision bombing, so as not to hurt nearby civilians (who refused to be evacuated), bomb racks from retired Mirage 3 jets were mounted on the underside of American UH-1 helicopters. The landing skids were lengthened a bit for this. The bomb release mechanism from the Mirage 3 was then installed in the helicopters.

Instead of smart bombs, the helicopter crews carried 500 and 900 pound dumb bombs, but flew them to GPS coordinates of their targets then, at an altitude of about 3,500 feet, and released the bombs.

The accuracy was amazing, usually the same as GPS guided smart bombs (within 33 feet of the GPS coordinates). Troops on the ground, or the helicopter crew, could use laser rangefinders equipped with GPS (a commercially available product) to get the coordinates of the target. Then, using the GPS in the helicopter, you fly the chopper until you are right over those coordinates.

Apparently no one ever realized that by combining GPS and a hovering helicopter with bomb racks, you can get about the same accuracy as a JDAM. Of course, one other factor was keeping down the ground fire. The army troops surrounding the terrorists could open fire as the helicopter approached, to make the bad guys keep their heads down.

Bombing attacks could also be made at night, to make it more difficult for machine-gun fire to hit the choppers. At 3,500 feet, a UH-1 is a pretty small target. And at night, very difficult to hit from the ground.

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