Smart Bombs: The History and Future of Strategic Bombardment
Every kid loves to hear stories from their grandparents about something that they have experienced in their life. For me, some of the best stories came from my father about the air war that was waged over Europe during World War II. He often told me of a day that a formation of almost 1,000 bombers flew over his base:
"The drone of the planes could be heard for miles and made us on the ground feel as small as ants. There were over 1,000 of them overhead, in a perfect formation, each one with four engines roaring. They looked invincible to us on the ground; there were so many of them. After seeing the ...view middle of the document...
Today, it would be considered a waste of time and resources. With the use of radar, GPS and laser technology, we are able to destroy the same manufacturing plants with fewer than four strategic bombers such as the F-1, B-2, or F-117. The use of smart bomb technology in these planes has taken aerial bombing into the 21st century. Instead of bombing large areas, our bombers can hit specific points in buildings. Rather than using 1,000 tons of bombs in one run against a manufacturing plant, the use of little more than four 2,000 pound bombs are needed to destroy the same building. Smart bombs have made aerial bombing more efficient as well as safer for our aerial personnel.
Ever since the dawn of military aviation, man has attempted to bombard their enemy from the air. The first planes could not create enough lift to carry an effective bomb load, so air ships were used to complete the task. By the end of World War I, German Zeppelin air ships had been designed that could "reach a maximum speed of 136 kph and reach a height of 4,250 meters. They had five machine-guns and could carry 2,000 kg (4,400 lbs) of bombs (Zeppelin ZI)." These airships, though psychologically effective, were too vulnerable with their flammable gasses to achieve much success. With modifications in airplanes, effective bombers would be made by the end of World War I.
Before these modifications would be made, however, pilots would still attempt to use what they had. The first bombing mission occurred in the Italo-Turkish War in 1911, when a single Italian pilot dropped four grenades on Turkish positions. Though this bomb raid was completely ineffective, it was the start of strategic bombing as it is known today ("War, Technology...").
As planes evolved that could carry a reasonable bomb load, one major problem emerged: how to aim the bombs. At a low level, pilots or observers serving as bombardiers could guess when to release the bombs, but it was near impossible to release a bomb accurately from a high altitude. Bomb accuracy was such an issue that the United States Military believed that air powers should be focused only on observation and reconnaissance, as bombers would be no more than a waist.
However, General Billy Mitchell would not stand for it. He had seen the effects that bombing could have upon enemy, as well as his own forces during World War I and was very outspoken on the subject. His statements upon the subjects made his relations with his superiors "sour as he began to attack both the War and Navy Departments for being insufficiently farsighted regarding airpower (CADRE/ARJ)." As the fight between Mitchell and the United States Navy was aroused so did a challenge. The Navy believed that no plane could sink a ship by bombardment. Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy at the time, went as far as to say that he would "stand bareheaded on the deck of any ship Mitchell was going to bomb (Feltus)."
Mitchell blew them all away,...