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Pentagon Uses Variety of Weapons for Terrorist Targets - 2001-10-07


The U.S. military has a wide array of weapons at its disposal for attacks on terrorist-related targets in Afghanistan, some of which were used in the initial strikes Sunday.

The initial targets disclosed by the Pentagon included Taleban air bases and air defense installations as well as terrorist camps. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says a variety of weapons were used. "The operation today involved a variety of weapon systems and it originated from a number of separate locations," he said. "We used land and sea-based aircraft, surface ships and submarines, and we employed a variety of weapons to achieve our objective."

Pentagon officials subsequently disclosed 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles were used. These are six-meter long jet-powered missiles launched from Navy ships and submarines with a range of more than 1,500 kilometers.

They are capable of traveling at a speed of close to 900 kilometers an hour and rely on sophisticated global positioning system technology and computer mapping programs to strike their targets.

The Pentagon also confirmed long-range bombers were involved in the first strikes including B-2 Stealth bombers, sleek B-1 bombers and venerable B-52 bombers.

The ultra-modern B-2's, with their unique flying wing shape, are known to have taken off from a base in the United States for their attack on Afghanistan.

Among the weapons used by the aircraft were so-called Joint Direct Attack Munitions or J-DAM's. These are guided air-to-surface weapons that use 400 to 800 kilogram warheads as payloads. The weapons are guided by a tail control system and a special navigation system.

Target coordinates can be loaded before takeoff, but may also be manually altered by the aircrew before weapon release.