USAF StormBreaker Smart Bomb

GPS has been known unreliable for a very long time. Ten years ago I wrote about it here, and more recently participated in tests that successfully fooled Tesla navigation systems such that it made a car drive erratically and abruptly exit a highway.

Trouble in navigation probably is why the USAF is announcing new technology on bombs that optimistically gets described as the kind of cutting-edge millimeter waves and lasers you might find on driver-less-cars.

While the GBU-39 used Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites as the guidance method, the StormBreaker when operational will use GPS plus a millimeter wave radar and a semi-active laser as a seeker package.

Stormbreaker bomb (arguably a drone) after launch from USAF jet. Claimed by Raytheon to maintain target accuracy even during inclement weather or GPS failures

I’ll wager the backstory here is that GPS bombs were being not-so-smart after all (mass civilian casualties). Terms like “smart” and “seeker” only go so far when the things dropped from a plane, or flying themselves, blow up the wrong people.

Who can forget the 1950s version of pin point accuracy on bombs intended to destroy North Korea that killed USAF crews instead? And let’s not forget Igloo White bombing in the 1970s that not only missed targets but also cooked the books to be considered a success.

More to the point (pun not intended), Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2017 launched investigations and lodged formal complaints about the GBU-39

“They told us it was a mistake by the coalition, and after the war we will talk about it,” Hasan said of Iraqi officials whom he contacted for help. “Why would they make a mistake like this? They have all the technology. This is not a small mistake.”

Another east Mosul resident, Jasim Mohammed Ali, said his son and six grandsons were killed by what he believes was a coalition airstrike that destroyed his home on Nov. 17.

The coalition is still investigating the strike based on a complaint by Human Rights Watch, which — along with other experts The Times consulted — identified munition parts in the wreckage of Ali’s house as a GBU-39 small-diameter bomb, a guided munition used by coalition forces.

So the good news might be that bombs are going to be far more accurate and kill the right targets.

“An increase of 82 percent in child casualties compared with the previous four years” has been linked in Afghanistan to aerial attacks and remnant explosives.

I haven’t found yet that kind of reference in the USAF press release on why they felt the need to improve “smart” bomb targeting systems. It just seems like a logical jump from the HRW criticisms.

Also consider the USAF and other customers of US arms still have a lot of GBU-39 left to drop (as HRW reported again this year) so maybe they want to wait 30-40 years before declassifying real reasons as some rappers already have guessed.

The pilots said their bombs lit Baghdad like a Christmas tree
It was the Christian thing to do you see
they didn’t mention any casualties
no distinction between the real and the proxy
only football analogies

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