HISTORY shows that the blinding speed in the development and evolution of technology does not only improve the quality of living but also improves the ways of maiming and killing people. This is again evident in the US-led campaign against Iraq.

The war in Iraq, which has caused deaths and damage, for example, involved the use of the most advanced and deadliest weapons employing the latest computer software.

In this article, the Varsitarian explores the sophisticated technology employed in selected weapons of mass destruction of the coalition used against Saddam’s army.

Undefeatable

A report posted in www.tribune.com says Russia supplies technical expertise to Iraq, but this is no match for American weaponry, into which billions of dollars are invested year after year. Satellite jamming and other electronic warfare systems have not significantly affected allied operations against Iraqi forces.

Weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) allowed successful air strikes even in poor weather with its ability to locate and destroy Russian-made Global Positioning System (GPS) jamming technology. U.S. Lasers, radars, satellites and video cameras guide precision weapons like the Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Space dominance also ensured US military superiority. In fact, in a press statement telecast over BBC television, Major Gen. Franklin Blaisdell, director of US Air Force space operations and integration said, “We’re so dominant in space that I would pity a country that would come up against us.”

High-Tech Weaponry

Huge strides in information technology during the last decade made even the most meticulously orchestrated attacks possible in the war against Iraq. According to the Middle East broadsheet Newsline, “dumb” bombs from the 1991 Gulf War were “smartened” with fittings of special steering and guidance kits.

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These JDAMs reach their targets by sending electronic mission data signals from the JDAM’s computer to the attack aircraft. If the targets change in flight, the new coordinates automatically guide the JDAM. The bomb can be launched from as far as 15 miles, which is far beyond the range of other anti-aircraft artillery.

Once the JDAM is released, an inertial navigation system guides the tail fins during free fall, and an onboard Global Positioning System (GPS) device makes any necessary correction to guide the bomb to within 45 feet of the target. The satellite guidance allows the weapon to be used in any weather.

Meanwhile, on the ground, the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) tanks, armored carriers, helicopters, and cannons are equipped with Pentium-powered Appliqué+ computers that communicate with one another via a wireless network using the same TCP/IP protocols, the network for communication standard developed and used by the US. Called Tactical Internet, this $800-million project is now the centerpiece of their new digital battlefield. It is technically a private intranet or a local area network (LAN) system.

Officers and soldiers in each of the 4ID’s five brigades are able to share a common up-to-date picture, marking the GPS-plotted locations of both allied and hostile forces in the battle zone.

Appliqué software runs on the Solaris operating system rather than the traditional Windows. In addition to downloadable maps and videogame-like updates of each soldier’s location, Appliqué includes both long- and short-form text message systems (e-mail and SMS) to augment voice radio commands that can be missed, misheard, or forgotten. Commanders can send encrypted orders individually or to groups. Individual soldiers can send messages to one another. Updates of troop locations come into the command post, and new maps and plans zip back out, without the need for white boards and sticky pens, which soldiers often used in the old days.

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Information on enemy locations comes in from satellites, as well as human observers in planes and strategic locations on the ground. The 4ID’s arsenal includes the Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System (LRAS3), a truck-mounted superscope that combines high-powered lenses, heat-based imaging, GPS, and laser-range finders to let scouts spot and plot the enemy into FBCB2 without having to creep within enemy firing range.

By contrast, the 4ID’s attack helicopters are equipped with a Linux-powered box called IDM (Improved Data Modem), a sort of universal translator that can transfer targeting information directly from planes or the ground.

With advanced sensors, night-vision and thermal-imaging optics, and computerized networking, ground troops can fight both day and night.

Night-vision scopes work by converting photons to electrons. Incoming light particles (photons) strike a plate that emits an electrical pattern in response. The resulting signal is amplified 15,000 times and shown on a small video screen. The human eye is better at differentiating subtle shades of green more than any other color. Shifting the frequency of a night scope’s monochromatic image from grays to greens makes it easier to discern shapes, shadows, and movement.

The U.S. military is fighting perhaps the most accurate air war in history, with most of the 8,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles set loose on Iraq blasting their intended targets off the map.

But “precision” weapons also miss. Human and mechanical errors send 10 percent or more astray. Laser-guided weapons suffer from problems like losing “lock” on the laser target beam, which can be obscured by clouds or smoke. Since mechanical devices are bound to have mechanical failures, human error plays a lot into it.

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The quantum leap in information technology employed by the U.S. military since the Gulf War has ensured that at least more lives will be spared in a time of a deliberate attack. Future technological developments may already justify the obscure greed in man, missile, and metal by the amount of precision and accuracy since casualties can already be avoided at boundless extent. John Ferdinand T. Buen

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