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Smart Bombs: The History and Future of Strategic Bombardment

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Smart Bombs: The History and Future of Strategic Bombardment


Every kid loves to hear stories from their grandparents about something that they have experienced in their life. For me, some of the best stories came from my father about the air war that was waged over Europe during World War II. He often told me of a day that a formation of almost 1,000 bombers flew over his base:

"The drone of the planes could be heard for miles and made us on the ground feel as small as ants. There were over 1,000 of them overhead, in a perfect formation, each one with four engines roaring. They looked invincible to us on the ground; there were so many of them. After seeing the destruction that they brought upon the German cities and factories, I was thankful they were on our side."

Those "invincible" planes my father told me of were American B-17 Bombers. With a range of 1,850 miles, a maximum ceiling of 35,600 ft. and a bomb load of 8,000 pounds, the B-17 Flying Fortress was one of the most capable of the long range bombers of World War II. Though these statistics are impressive, the technology that made this bomber so impressive was its bomb sight.

The United States Army Air Corps claimed that its Norden Bomb sight, which was used in the B-17, could "place a bomb in a pickle barrel at 20,000 feet." Though it was not quite as accurate as claimed, it could hit a 100 foot square target area consistently from 20,000 feet. Using this bomb sight, which was considered top secret for the first years of the war, formations of up to 1,000 B-17's would be able to hit a target in broad daylight accurately. The effects of these bombing runs were felt heavily in the Germans manufacturing industry. On October 14, 1943, 229 B-17s ...

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Webmaster. "Guided Bomb Unit-28 (GBU-28) Bunker Buster." Military Analysis Network. 28 February. 1998. 19 March. 2004.


Webmaster. "Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)." May 13. 2003. 19 March. 2004.

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