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The Associated Press March 25, 2003

More than 2,000 precision bombs used against Iraq

By Sally Buzbee

U.S. aircraft have dropped more than 2,000 precision-guided bombs on Iraq since the war's start, a feat possible in part because the "smart" bombs now are produced for a relatively cheap $20,000 each.

The targets have ranged from military buildings and palaces inside Baghdad - including a bunker believed to hold Iraqi President Saddam Hussein - to the key Republican Guard troops now defending the approaches to the capital city.

Sandstorms like those raging in Iraq on Tuesday do not prevent satellite-guided bombs from finding their targets, but the combat airplanes carrying such bombs from two aircraft carriers did have to be called back because of the bad weather.

In contrast, the clouds of smoke from oil fires deliberately set by the Iraqi regime "are more a hazard to the people living in Baghdad than an impediment to our operations," Air Force Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart said Tuesday.

The bombing campaign, the most intensive use of precision bombs in history, appears to have had the desired effect of targeting specific military sites without killing large numbers of Iraqi innocents.

Yet as of Monday, almost nothing was known about the actual damage the bombs have caused, because the Pentagon had yet to publicly give any assessments, beyond showing a few photos of bombs hitting individual targets like airfields or buildings.

"We judge effectiveness not just by whether there's a hole in the roof of a building, but whether or not the function (in that building) ... ceases to be effective," Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said. "We can achieve much 'shock and awe' by hitting just critical points."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has stressed that the U.S. precision bombs are not blanketing Baghdad with destruction, but instead are falling only on select military and command targets. The city, Rumsfeld said, is "not ablaze."

Indeed, there have been few reports of the errant bombs that killed several groups of civilians during the war in Afghanistan, said Daniel Goure, a military analyst in Washington.

Speaking of injuries that have occurred, Renuart said Tuesday: "It is a tragedy to see the children who are injured and we continue to try to minimize that. But I can't tell you that nothing bad will happen."

Not all precision munitions have worked. Tomahawk cruise missiles - another type of satellite-guided munition - also have been used against Iraqi targets, although in lesser amounts. Over the weekend, two Tomahawks fired from a ship in the eastern Mediterranean landed in an unpopulated area of Turkey without exploding and Pentagon officials said they may have malfunctioned in flight.

So far, 80 percent of the bombs and missiles used by the Air Force have been guided by lasers, radar, satellites or video cameras, Pentagon officials say. In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, fewer than 10 percent of the bombs dropped were so-called precision-guided munitions.

In this war's first few days, "we used essentially 100 percent precision-guided," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

That increase is possible, in part, because of advances in technology that now allow defense contractors to convert a regular "dumb," or free-falling, bomb to a "smart" or satellite-guided bomb with a relatively cheap kit costing $20,000 a bomb.

The kit, called the Joint Direct Attack Munition, was also used extensively to convert bombs during the Afghan war, where precision bombs accounted for roughly 70 percent of bombs dropped.

JDAM kits can be used on either 1,000-pound or 2,000-pound bombs. The Tomahawk missile delivers a 1,000-pound warhead with roughly the same precision. But the military has fewer of the Tomahawks, and they are much more expensive - about $600,000 each.

Some military experts estimate the United States had as many as 10,000 JDAMs on hand before the war began.

Both Tomahawks and JDAMs are guided by global positioning system satellites, meaning they aren't deterred by clouds, dust or smoke.

Coalition forces have destroyed six satellite jamming devices, which Iraq was using to try to thwart American precision-guided weapons, Renuart said. He said the devices had "no effect" on U.S. military operations.

U.S. officials say they have deliberately avoided some important Iraqi military targets they could easily hit with the precision bombs out of fear the bombs also would kill civilians.

"There continue to be a number of high-value targets that have not been hit," said John Pike, a defense analyst at Globalsecurity.org in Washington. "I think that's basically going to be round two, once the ground forces are forcing their way into the outskirts of Baghdad."


Copyright 2003, The Associated Press