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Sunday, January 26, 2003
The cruise missiles in Uncle Sam's quiver
The current plan in the Pentagon is to attack Iraq in March by having the Air Force and Navy launch 300-400 cruise missiles one day one of the escalated war and then drop 300-400 more the next, CBS News reported yesterday. The goal is to discourage the Iraqi military from wanting to fight. In the story, CBS News quotes an unnamed “Pentagon official” as saying, "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad.”
This strategy is known as “Shock and Awe,” and was described by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade as a means of instituting “Rapid Dominance” in a 1996 report for the The Command and Control Research Program, which is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. “The aim of Rapid Dominance,” write Ullman and Wade, "is to affect the will, perception, and understanding of the adversary to fit or respond to our strategic policy ends through imposing a regime of Shock and Awe."
Cruise missiles, at least the “Tomahawks” used by the U.S. (create your own joke), are a quintessential high tech weapon as they move on their own propulsion and contain software so that the missile can react to the terrain around it. “At the heart of the cruise missile is TERCOM - Terrain Contour Matching - software that allows the weapon to ‘read’ the ground it flies over,” writes the BBC. “It is not infallible. Firstly, the software demands that the missile flies from one reference point to the next so that it can work out where it is. Secondly, it is only as good as the maps it carries.”
As the missile gets close to its target, the Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation guidance system “compares what it can see on the ground with a digital rendition of its target,” the BBC further reports, in order to strike its intended target with as much accuracy as possible.
Tomahawks have a better than 85% success rate, writes The Federation of American Scientists.
(I can’t help but wonder why such accuracy is needed if the goal really is to make all of Baghdad a dangerous place to be.)
Tomahawk cruise missiles were first used in the Gulf War and are produced by Raytheon. Each missile has a 1,000 pound payload and have an average unit cost of 1.4 million, according to globalsecurity.org.
The “Tactical Tomahawk” –a new and improved version of the missile- is expected to be available for use soon. “Tactical Tomahawk, which will be introduced in 2003, will incorporate new technologies to provide new operational capabilities while fundamentally reducing acquisition and life cycle costs,” writes Raytheon.
In contrast, The U.S. Navy says, in a web page said to have been last updated on December 17, that the new Tomahawk “is projected to enter service in 2004.”