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Weapons of Choice: The Development of Precision Guided Munitions

Weapons of Choice: The Development of Precision Guided Munitions

by: Paul G. Gillespie

Weapons of Choice: The Development of Precision Guided Munitions #380150

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Weapons of Choice: The Development of Precision Guided Munitions
By Paul G. Gillespie

  • Publisher: University Alabama Press
  • Number Of Pages: 256
  • Publication Date: 2006-10-01
  • ISBN-10 / ASIN: 0817315322
  • ISBN-13 / EAN: 9780817315320

Product Description:

In the United States, efforts to develop precision guided munitions - PGMs - began during the First World War and resulted in an 'aerial torpedo' by the 1920s. While World War II was dominated by large-scale strategic bombing - essentially throwing out tons of free-falling munitions in the hope they hit something important - both sides in the war worked to develop airborne munitions that could be steered toward a target. However after that war, U.S. national security policy focused on the atomic bomb, hardly a weapon that needed to be directed with accuracy. The cost of emphasis on atomic weapons was revealed in the general unsuitability of American tactics and weapons deployment systems during the Vietnam War. Lessons learned in that conflict, coupled with rapid technological developments in aerodynamics, lasers, and solid-state electronics, brought air power dramatically closer to the "surgical strike" now seen as crucial to modern warfare. New technology created attractive choices and options for American policymakers as well as field commanders, and events in the Arab-Israeli wars, the U.S. raid on Libya, and most dramatically in the first Gulf War created an ever-increasing demand for the precision weapons. The prospect of pinpoint delivery of weapons right to the enemy's door by speeding aircraft seems to presage war in which the messy and politically risky deployment of ground troops is unnecessary. The potential of such weapons, and their strategic limitations, made the Gulf War and Iraqi War living theater for assessing what such weapons can and cannot do and have important implications for planning for future warfare.

Summary: Reviewed by Douglas Selin, Electrical Engineer
Rating: 5

This book is a very interesting historical account of the development of precision guided weapons. In addition, there is commentary on how the development of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) has influenced national defense policy. Personally, I was intrigued by the history and the early attempts that were made to improve the accuracy of bombs. Some of the stories were fascinating. Another reader told me that the best chapters were Chapters 2 and 3, and they were very enjoyable. However, being an engineer, I found the description in the later chapters of how Texas Instruments developed the laser guided bomb to be the most interesting. I would have enjoyed more detailed explanations of the mechanisms used, but I recognize that many others might not have been that enthralled with it. Overall, I was very impressed with how well-written this book is. Although the history was the most interesting part to me, the policy commentary and conclusions were also interesting (just not quite as interesting).

Summary: A very good book, but do not expect coverage of recent history/developments.
Rating: 4

This is a very good book. Like the previous reviewer I was drawn to the description of TI's development of the Paveway series of LGBs.

However, for a book with a publishing date of 2006 (with a late 2006 release date), I expected a lot more coverage of precision guided munition (PGM) doctrine, rules of engagement and usage/effects in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2006 release date also led me to expect a discussion of how improvements in GPS accuracy created demand for smaller JDAMs, as well as some discussion of multi-mode seekers which have been developed for JDAMs, Lockheed-Martin's Joint Common Missile and Increment II of Boeing's Small Diameter Bomb (SDB / GBU-39). In fact, SDB and the potential revolution it represents (60 nm range, sub-meter accuracy, low-potential for collateral damage, quadrupled weapons loadout) isn't covered.

Don't get me wrong. This is a very good book, filled with more data and background than anything I've previously seen on early American PGM development and usage. The author's argument that PGM usage in Vietnam previewed a Revolution in Military Affairs and a change in how U.S. foreign policy is conducted was spot on. But, as the cover stated, "There are not many books devoted to PGMs" - the recent release date had me hoping for, and expecting, more. This book makes a good companion to "The Precision Revolution: GPS and the Future of Aerial Warfare" which ends in the same timeframe, though it was published in 2002.

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