Re: HISTORY: "smart" vs. "dumb" munitions (economics)

Michael Lorrey (
Wed, 23 Jul 1997 18:46:23 -0400

James Rogers wrote:
> At 06:54 PM 7/17/97 -0400, Michael Lorrey wrote:
> >Mark Grant wrote:
> >>
> >> Michael Lorrey ( wrote:
> >>
> >> > The laser bombs carried by the FB were
> >> > developed to take out our own bridges, which were precisely surveyed, to
> >> > slow and impede a Soviet advance.
> >>
> >> Have you read the latest reports on the success rate of laser-guided bombs
> >> in the Gulf? Doesn't make good reading. Wish I hadn't mislaid the
> >> newspaper article I cut out or I'd give you figures.

You'll also notice that I mentioned the bit about surveyed sites. With
exact coordinates, which were not possible before the age of GPS, a
laser bomb could home in on a precise point with inertial guidance and a
touch of help from the launch plane. Without such exact data, its
accuracy is much as reported.

> >
> >People say that 25% accuracy is a crappy result. BS. Considering that
> >infantry shoots an average of 9000 rounds to kill one enemy soldier,
> >artillery tosses an average of 50 rounds to nail one tank, etc....a
> >25-50% success rate is highly surgical by military standards.
> Most people's conception of what military accuracy is or should be is often
> seriously out of sorts with reality and economy. The old Copperhead
> "smart" artillery rounds were about 20% accurate at hitting tanks at
> $25,000 a piece. An equivalent "dumb" round costs ~$500 and on average
> requires 500 rounds expended per tank kill (most heavy armor today requires
> a direct artillery hit for a kill). The $500 dumb rounds may sound cheap,
> but when multiplied by the number required for the same effect, they
> usually cost more. In a battlefield environment it is absolutely amazing
> if you have 50% accuracy.

Probably the dumbest decision made in the last decade was to retire the
A-10. The A-10's GAU-9 30mm cannon, which shot steel jacketed rounds
with spent uranium cores, were probably the most economical way to kill
tanks devised. With a couple hundred rounds in a burst, such a weapon is
even usefull against the new "compound" armor which uses exterior
explosive plates. Much more cost effective than the Maverick missile.
> But a more important factor is speed. An artillery battery using "dumb"
> rounds requires approximately 30 minutes to fire 500 rounds. 5 "smart"
> rounds can be fired in less than a minute. Since most battles are over in
> less than 30 minutes, it is well worth the extra money for the quick
> lethality of "smart" weapons. This is especially true when you are going
> head-to-head against similar equipment.

THis is why the infantry platoon's M-60 gunner typically has an
estimated life expectancy in a firefight of around 60 seconds. Since the
M-60 puts out the most lead in the least time of all weapons in the
platoon, the enemy's first goal is to take out the M-60 gunner.

Smart munitions designed for use in high threat environments, like the
theoretical soviet invasion of western europe, are especially valuable
compared to smart bombs, as such an environment gives the average ground
attack plane a life expectancy of less than ten missions. They are also
good for single run attacks, which allows a greater level of surprise
than attacks which require multiple runs to take out a target. THis is
why attacks like Tripoli and the Isreali run on Bagdads nuke plant in
84(?) were so successfull.

> The 9000 small-arms rounds per kill sounds a little high, but if true
> wouldn't surprise me. Rounds are usually expended for purposes *other*
> than killing people. For example, suppressive fire isn't intended to kill
> anyone but uses up a lot of ammo.

This was one of the amazing factoids that MacNamara's bean counters came
up with during Vietnam.

			Michael Lorrey
------------------------------------------------------------		Inventor of the Lorrey Drive

Mikey's Animatronic Factory My Own Nuclear Espionage Agency (MONEA) MIKEYMAS(tm): The New Internet Holiday Transhumans of New Hampshire (>HNH) ------------------------------------------------------------ #!/usr/local/bin/perl-0777---export-a-crypto-system-sig-RC4-3-lines-PERL @k=unpack('C*',pack('H*',shift));for(@t=@s=0..255){$y=($k[$_%@k]+$s[$x=$_ ]+$y)%256;&S}$x=$y=0;for(unpack('C*',<>)){$x++;$y=($s[$x%=256]+$y)%256; &S;print pack(C,$_^=$s[($s[$x]+$s[$y])%256])}sub S{@s[$x,$y]=@s[$y,$x]}