Precision Guided Munitions

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Precision Guided Munitions

During the Persian Gulf War of 1991 a new class of weapons made its debut and presaged a revolution in military affairs. Although precision-guided munitions (PGMs), ranging from laser-guided bombs to Tomahawk cruise missiles, represented only a fraction of the total ordinance used in Iraq, the effect they had was electric. The television footage of a bomb dropped from more than 6 miles above descending onto its target and hitting with absolute precision was at once fascinating and jarring. The Gulf War demonstrated the power that precision aerial attacks possessed. The accuracy and lethality of air launched munitions during the Gulf war was in sharp contrast to the relative crudity of aerial bombing during World War II.

In Iraq and later in Kosovo, precision-guided munitions (PGM) demonstrated their capabilities. The US waged a type of warfare in these campaigns that was markedly different from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The US is still coming to grips with the implications of the new type of warfare it has released. The development of accurate precision-guided munitions was not revolutionary, but an evolutionary process that took the course of half a century. Today most precision-guided munitions can be classified by their guidance or propulsion systems. Precision-guided munitions affect the military in three areas. First precision-guided munitions have challenged time-honored traditions of mass. Second, precision-guided munitions have unique information needs. Finally, the capabilities of precision-guided munitions have significant implications on acquisitions policy. Regardless of whether or not precision-guided munitions are part of a larger revolution in military, the implications of precision-guided munitions for the US military are significant.

Historical Evolution of Accuracy

Ever since man first threw stones at their fellow men, the elusive goal of killing one’s opponent from a distance, with absolute precision has been a holy grail of warfare. Weapons such as bows and arrows, rifles, and artillery, were all designed for increased lethality at longer distances, with less risk to the operator. PGMs provide just that capability; that is the capability to put ordinance on target with precision at long ranges. Precision has always played a role in warfare. Whether it was marksmanship with bow or rifle, the ability to place a projectile on target contributed greatly to victory. PGMs were designed with just that function in mind.
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