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Precision Weapons To Limit Civilian Casualties in Iraq War - 2003-03-25

Precision guided weapons have been a big part of the bombing campaign since the war with Iraq began nearly a week ago.

VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins reports on the performance of the arms in the military campaign to disarm Saddam Hussein.

They’ve been launched from ships at sea. They’re dropped from the air and even launched from the ground positions. They are highly sophisticated precision guided munitions, high-tech bombs and missiles.

These types of weapons are being used more than ever before. They have proven valuable, for pinpoint accuracy and because they limited civilian casualties.

In the first days of this war American and British forces used thousands of Tomahawk cruise missiles. That’s compared to only 243 used during the entire 1991 Gulf War.

The advantages of precision guided missiles are they can be fired from great distances off of ships and travel at high speeds to reach their targets.

Satellites and lasers guide them, so poor weather; smoke or even darkness has little affect on accuracy.

U.S. military commander General Tommy Franks says the high-tech arsenal is a big part of the military might to disarm Saddam Hussein.

“This will be a campaign unlike any other in history, a campaign characterized by shock, by surprise by flexibility by employment of precise munitions on a scale never before seen and by the application of overwhelming force.”

That message was delivered on the first day of the war when the United States decided to launch a precision guided cruise missile attack on a senior Iraqi leadership compound where Saddam Hussein was believed to be staying.

U.S. military leaders are also using precision guided Patriot anti-missiles missiles to defend troops in Kuwait. They have been heavily upgraded from the ones used during the Gulf War.

But so far they’ve had mixed results. The Patriots did shoot down incoming Iraq missiles at the start of the war. But just a few days later one of the missiles accidentally shot down a British fighter-bomber killing two pilots.

Joseph Cirincione is with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. He is a critic of the Patriot program. He says that while the anti-missile defense weapons are still far from foolproof, they are needed.

“Even a basic Scud missile or cruise missile with a conventional warhead can cause a lot of damage.”

U.S. military leaders predict the use of precision guided missiles and bombs will make this military campaign with Iraq more effective and efficient.