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WORLD NEWS TONIGHT (06:30 PM ET) - ABC March 21, 2003

Satellite War Weapon

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS

(Off Camera) There is probably one piece of equipment as much as any other which has made a difference in this war. And that is the global positioning satellite. It is the instrument attached to satellite that enables equipment and soldiers and tanks and deliveries of almost anything to know exactly where they are, and where they're going. Here's a report on that tonight from ABC's Ned Potter.

NED POTTER, ABC NEWS

(Voice Over) Tomahawk cruise missiles. Launched from Navy cruisers in the Persian Gulf. Their target, one military installation hundreds of miles away in downtown Baghdad. The installation is surrounded by buildings, which is why the missiles rely on the Global Positioning System.

CAPT SCOTT SWIFT, US NAVY

The whole intent here is to maximize the impact on military targets while minimizing collateral damage.

NED POTTER

(Voice Over) The Global Positioning System, GPS for short, is a constellation of 24 satellites whose signals can be used to plot the location of any object on Earth. A missile uses the satellite signals to plot the path to its targets. The military says chances are better than even that the missile will hit within 40 feet.

JOHN PIKE, DIRECTOR, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG

In a crowded neighborhood, the difference between the satellite guided bomb and the dumb bomb can be the difference between hitting the secret police headquarters and hitting an orphanage.

NED POTTER

(Voice Over) Every platoon racing north into Iraq also has a GPS receiver. An essential tool to get thousands of troops across open desert. If they know where they are, and where their comrades are, the chance is smaller that they will fire on each other by accident.

MALE SEVENTEEN, US SOLDIER

This basically tells me where all the other assimilated equipped units are all over the battlefield. So, if they have the same type computer, I can maintain situational awareness.

NED POTTER

(Voice Over) GPS was already there for the first Gulf War twelve years ago. But back then, only about 10 percent of the air strikes were with so- called smart bombs. Today, it's closer to 80 percent.

NED POTTER (CONTINUED)

(Off Camera) But analysts warn that no matter how smart the weapons, there will undoubtedly be mistakes. So, for example, if this building is being targeted, the chances are 50/50 that bombs will land somewhere within this 40-foot circle. Unfortunately the chances are also 50/50 that they'll land somewhere outside. Perhaps far outside.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTL PEACE

A great depends on our intelligence. Did we really pick out the right target? Is that really a Republican Guards barracks and not a school?

NED POTTER

(Voice Over) The Iraqis may try to jam GPS signals to throw bombs off course. The US says it can overcome that. But for all the technology brought to bear, war is still an unpredictable business. Ned Potter, ABC News, New York.


Copyright 2003, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.