Baghdad raid takes 12min from targeting to attack

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Fast decision-making and co-ordinate setting by USAF led to lightning strike by B-1B

The7 April strike on a building in Baghdad thought to contain Saddam Hussein and his sons showed how sensor-to-shooter times are being reduced. During the strike a Rockwell B-1B dropped four 950kg (2,000lb) Boeing GBU-31 JDAMGPS-guided bombs 12min after receiving the target co-ordinates.

Lt Col Fred Swan, one of two weapon systems officers on the 405th Air Expeditionary Wing B-1 says:" We were just coming off the tanker in western Iraq with another target area that we were planned to go to, and we were retasked to this target. From the time we got the co-ordinates, it took 12 minutes to get the bombs on target."

Reducing the time between identifying targets and launching an attack was a key lesson learned during the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent conflicts. One defence analyst says: "The key is not just the targeting, but also the decision-making and the time to make the decision... this is a vital part." Reports suggest that it took an hour between the Baghdad target being identified and the attack.

Swan says the B-1 was passed the target co-ordinates by a Boeing E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS). Having received the order to alter targets, the B-1 crew then had to reprogramme the JDAMs with the correct GPS co-ordinates.

Swan says two of the GBU-31s were "version 3" which had a hard-target penetration capability, while the other two were "version 1" weapons with a 25ms delay fuze. He adds that after the Baghdad strike, the B-1 went to two further locations - "about 200 miles" apart - where another 17 targets were attacked.