Precision Targeting Systems
To create the desired level of destruction, neutralization, or suppression of enemy targets, the weapons load, arming, and fuze settings must be tailored for the desired results. Cluster and general-purpose munitions are very effective against troops and stationary vehicles. However, hardened, mobile, or pinpoint targets may require specialized weapons, such as laser-guided, electro-optical (EO), IR munitions, RW attack aircraft armed with PGMs, or aircraft with special equipment or capabilities. While the actual ordnance aircraft will carry is specified, the requesting commander should provide sufficient information outlining his desired effects, any external or self-initiated tactical restrictions or limitations, etc. This allows the best support to the commander’s intent while simultaneously giving them as much flexibility as possible. Ground commanders should be aware that immediate CAS requests might have to be filled by aircraft loaded with less-than-optimum munitions.
Laser-guided systems provide the joint force with the ability to locate and engage high priority targets with an increased first-round hit probability. Laser-guided systems can effectively engage a wide range of targets, including moving targets. Laser-guided systems provide additional capabilities, but also have distinct limitations. Laser operations supplement other procedures and are not substitutes for other planning and execution procedures and techniques. In any laserdesignating situation, strive for simplicity and use all available resources to help ensure first-pass success.
Inertially-Aided Munitions rely on a self-contained GPS-aided INS, which guides the weapon from the release point to target coordinates regardless of weather, camouflage, or obscurants. Some IAM/GPS-guided munitions may have seekers that if used, will provide enhanced terminal guidance corrections, further increasing accuracy. These seekers may include but are not limited to laser, television, and millimeter wave sensors. These weapons require encrypted GPS signals and may require considerable preflight planning to achieve optimum accuracy depending on weapon type, mission, and etc.
The principal technologies that determine the effectiveness of precision targeting systems are the sensitivity and resolution of the infrared imaging sensor, the power of the laser designator, and the minimization of the angular jitter of the sensor / laser line of sight.
Because of technology limitations, the early infrared imagers used a one dimension linear array, of infrared individual sensors, which was scanned over the focal plane of the sensor. This technology limited the sensitivity of the sensor because of the low duty cycle (0.01) of the individual sensors on any single point in the focal plane. In recent years, as the result of DoD and industry investments, the technology of infrared focal planes has advanced to where two dimensional arrays of up to approximately 500 by 500 pixels of individual high sensitivity detectors can be fabricated. This enhances the sensitivity of the sensors by one to two orders of magnitude thus providing the needed additional range capability.
Early laser designators employed high voltage flash lamps to pump YAG lasers. These devices had relatively low power and also suffered from high voltage breakdown at high altitudes. As the result of development in the 1980's, low voltage laser diode pumping was developed resulting in the ability to develop much higher powers in miniature lasers as well as eliminating the high voltage breakdown problem.
At the longer ranges that are now needed, the angular jitter of the sensor and laser aiming must be reduced by a factor of two to four. Improved vibration isolation systems have been developed in recent years to make this possible.
Advances in automatic target acquisition and boresighting techniques have improved acquisition and identification of targets as well as improving the precision of weapon targeting.
Current targeting pods are inadequate because improved enemy low altitude air defenses have forced tactical aircraft to operate at significantly higher altitudes. As a result of tactical air strike experiences in the Persian Gulf War of 1990, the continuing Northern and Southern Watches, the Bosnian Theater, and in Kosovo, U.S. tactical air forces have been forced to operate at two to four times higher altitudes and ranges in order to avoid vulnerability due to an enemy mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems which have proved difficult to destroy due to their mobility and intermittent operation.
Due to the forced increases in altitude and range of strike air attack, the sensitivity and resolution of the older infrared imagers as well as the power of the targeting lasers have become inadequate, leading to much lower kill probabilities. As a result, both the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force have declared that obtaining an advanced targeting pod for the current Navy, Marine, and Air Force tactical air fleets is an extremely urgent matter.
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