High precision weapons a great destructive force armies are racing to acquire

Since the 1970s‭, ‬the world has experienced a scientific revolution resulting in modern innovations and discoveries‭, ‬as armed conflicts kept developing and evolving‭, ‬in line with rapid scientific progress and discoveries in the fields of physics‭, ‬chemistry‭,‬‭ ‬and other natural sciences as well as the arms race that was prevalent in the time of the Cold War‭, ‬between the major industrialized countries‭.‬

Since the 1970s‭, ‬the world has experienced a scientific revolution resulting in modern innovations and discoveries‭, ‬as armed conflicts kept developing and evolving‭, ‬in line with rapid scientific progress and discoveries in the fields of physics‭, ‬chemistry‭,‬‭ ‬and other natural sciences as well as the arms race that was prevalent in the time of the Cold War‭, ‬between the major industrialized countries‭. ‬Nowadays‭, ‬armed conflicts are characterized by the emergence of new types of weapons and military equipment‭, ‬and their rapid deployment in large quantities in modern armies‭, ‬resulting in a radical change in the organizational structure of‭ ‬the armed forces as well as the forms of armed conflict‭. ‬Scientific discoveries in various sciences have led to many technological achievements in the military sector‭, ‬the most prominent of which are high-precision weapons being developed and deployed at a‭ ‬rapid pace‭, ‬resulting in a radical change in the organizational environment of the modern armed forces‭.‬

What are high-precision weapons‭?‬

A high-precision weapon is a technological system‭, ‬consisting of command and reconnaissance platforms as well as guidance systems capable of destroying mobile or stationary ground‭, ‬naval or aerial targets with a success rate of at least 0.6‭. ‬The achievements in the advancements of communications‭, ‬command and control technology‭, ‬as well as precision in firing at targets‭, ‬were in large part a result of advancements in electronics‭. ‬While the increase in accuracy was achieved by the introduction of the helix design to gun barrels‭, ‬the development of the reload mechanism and the increase in speed and range‭.‬

The probability of the projectile hitting the target‭ (‬CEP‭) ‬with the first shot and destroying it 100%‭ ‬of the time‭, ‬has been the‭ ‬focus of weapons developers for a long time until it was finally achieved through advanced electronics technology‭. ‬This led to the spread of what is known today as Precision Guided Munitions‭ (‬PGM‭), ‬which was used successfully and effectively in Vietnam‭, ‬the Middle East‭, ‬the Gulf War‭, ‬and is currently being used in Ukraine‭, ‬forever changing the nature of modern warfare‭.‬

Types of high-precision weapons

High-precision weapons can be divided into anti-aircraft‭, ‬air‭, ‬anti-ship‭, ‬anti-radar‭, ‬anti-armor‭, ‬and multi-purpose weapons‭.‬

The purpose of anti-aircraft high-precision weapons is to counter air threats such as‭:‬

•‭ ‬Airplanes flying at any altitude in an atmosphere charged with electromagnetic and infrared countermeasures‭.‬

•‭ ‬Air strikes at secure distances‭.‬

•‭ ‬Hovercrafts that appear suddenly for a few seconds to carry out successive strikes before disappearing or hiding behind natural‭ ‬cover‭.‬

•‭ ‬The widespread use of unmanned aerial equipment that performs reconnaissance and attack operations‭.‬

Classification of high-precision weapons

So far‭, ‬there is no unified classification of high-precision weapons‭, ‬but the prevailing classification in the scientific and military references and literature divides these weapons as follows‭:‬

1‭ ‬In terms of level and aspects of its use‭:‬‭ ‬They are classified into intercontinental weapons‭, ‬strategic operational weapons‭, ‬and tactical weapons‭.‬

2‭ ‬In terms of launch platforms‭:‬‭ ‬They are classified into land‭, ‬air‭, ‬and naval-based guided weapons‭.‬

3‭ ‬In terms of the targets‭:‬‭ ‬They are classified into weapons targeting radio-emitting targets‭, ‬heat-emitting targets‭, ‬and contrast targets‭.‬

4‭ ‬In terms of weapons guidance methods‭ (‬projectiles and missiles‭):‬‭ ‬Television‭, ‬thermal‭, ‬radar‭, ‬proportional‭, ‬or laser guidance‭.‬

5‭ ‬In terms of command and control systems that go into effect after the launch of the projectile or missile‭:‬

•‭ ‬Remote control‭.‬

•‭ ‬Autonomous‭:‬‭ ‬divided into passive‭, ‬active‭, ‬and semi-active self-guidance‭.‬

•‭ ‬Mixed method‭:‬‭ ‬using fiberglass cables‭, ‬wireless or wired‭.‬

6‭ ‬In terms of the type of ammunition‭ (‬the projectile‭):‬‭ ‬They are classified into‭: ‬ballistic missiles‭ – ‬cruise missiles‭ – ‬air-guided missiles‭ – ‬artillery shells‭, ‬high-precision mortars‭, ‬anti-armor guided missiles‭, ‬and guided air defense missiles‭.‬

Target acquisition‭ 

High-precision weapons systems include a means of identifying targets using‭: ‬radar‭, ‬sonar‭, ‬radio‭, ‬infrared‭, ‬or laser‭, ‬in the visible electromagnetic spectrum‭, ‬through which target data is processed using a microcomputer connected to the weapon‭, ‬which directs fire at the target and kills it automatically without manual intervention‭.‬

The precise guidance of weapons depends on many factors‭, ‬especially the characteristics of the target and the warhead‭.‬

Precision guidance has undergone many stages of development‭, ‬starting with World War II‭, ‬when the Americans designed radio-guided bombs weighing 2,000‭ ‬pounds‭, ‬which were dropped on Nazi Germany in 1944‭, ‬and radar-guided naval torpedoes which sank Japanese‭ ‬destroyers in 1945‭.‬

There were also experiments involving television-guided bombs and thermal radiation‭, ‬and by the end of World War II‭, ‬research shifted its focus towards developing nuclear weapons‭, ‬and the development of conventional weapons stopped for a while until the world superpowers realized the impossibility of using nuclear weapons as a substitute for traditional weapons‭.‬

Regional wars redirected research towards developing conventional weapons and increasing their effectiveness‭, ‬and advances in electronic technology resulted in the development of land‭, ‬sea‭, ‬and air high-precision weapons‭.‬

The Vietnam War was a well-established field of experimentation for testing the effectiveness of conventional weapons equipped with various guidance systems‭, ‬including aircraft bombs‭, ‬Paveway laser-guided missiles‭, ‬and Hopper electro-optical-guided aircraft bombs‭.‬

The bombing of the Tanhu crossing in North Vietnam on May 16‭, ‬1972‭, ‬is considered a turning point in the history of recognition‭ ‬of the effectiveness of the high-precision weapons‭, ‬which succeeded in destroying this crossing after the failure of 600‭ ‬airstrikes using conventional weapons and the loss of at least 16‭ ‬American bombers in the failed attempts‭.‬

Massive destructive power

High-precision weapons are classified as smart weapons‭, ‬which have become a very important destructive force that most armies are racing to acquire despite their high costs‭.‬

In addition to their massive destructive capabilities‭, ‬high performance‭, ‬and accuracy‭, ‬these weapons enable their users to direct them towards their target with great accuracy and speeds that exceed the speed of sound‭, ‬leaving the targets incapable of evading or escaping the destruction‭.‬

Missiles‭’ ‬power and accuracy have evolved with time‭, ‬for example during World War II‭ (‬1939-1945‭ ‬AD‭), ‬it took over a hundred planes dropping over a thousand bombs to destroy a vital target like a bridge‭, ‬and the attackers had to hit the whole area and not just the target‭, ‬while in the Vietnam War‭, ‬bombing a similar target required about 50‭ ‬planes and so on‭. ‬

High-precision weapons programs have benefited from advancements in artificial intelligence technology‭, ‬which made it possible to test these weapons in every different circumstance and scenario‭, ‬using 3D digital images for every possible target including airplanes‭, ‬armored vehicles‭, ‬and ships of all types and sizes‭.‬

It is also possible to change the programming to match changes in circumstances and conditions in the field of operations‭, ‬which‭ ‬has become inevitable‭, ‬as modern trends require an increase in the development of weapons as well as the availability of personnel trained in the use of high-precision weapons to provide maintenance and upkeep‭. ‬

On the other hand‭, ‬many countries are basing their training programs and plans on providing high levels of continuous quantitative and qualitative training for the individual‭, ‬to enable each individual to deal with the technical development that has become‭ ‬widespread in many systems of high-precision weapons‭, ‬which he could eventually have to handle‭. ‬

This highlights the importance and qualitative value of high-precision weapons‭, ‬especially as the geographical operations theater widens while the number of forces and mechanisms gradually decreases‭.‬

Reliance on high-precision weapons

Reliance on advanced‭, ‬high-precision smart weapons and munitions is the hallmark of modern armies‭, ‬as modern high-precision munitions and warheads are characterized by their effectiveness against all targets‭, ‬especially well-protected or fortified targets‭,‬‭ ‬in which case‭, ‬the guidance computer alerts the detonator of the target type‭, ‬and there are many types of high-precision munitions that have proven their ability to hit their target with high accuracy thanks to their intelligence in terms of guidance sensors‭.‬

The philosophy of making and using high-precision weapons was based on these weapons combining the power of the explosive charge‭ ‬of the projectile and the accuracy of the delivery system equipped to it‭, ‬which is responsible for delivering it to the predetermined target‭, ‬whether the weather conditions were stable or not‭.‬

Therefore‭, ‬these high-precision munitions have been diversified and developed to ensure that they have the ability to deal with‭ ‬target data as well as the surrounding conditions‭, ‬and they must also work as part of an integrated system‭, ‬each with its own required elements‭, ‬providing the requirements for the weapon to work and achieve maximum success‭.‬

High-precision weapons are the main concern and the basis of the armament systems of modern armies‭, ‬and they are constantly under development and modernization‭, ‬which includes all aspects of their operation from accuracy‭, ‬range‭, ‬and the control mechanism to their high ability to reach their target and destroy it‭.‬

High-precision smart munitions of all types‭ (‬anti-aircraft‭, ‬anti-ship‭, ‬and anti-armor missiles‭) ‬and ranges‭ (‬long‭, ‬short‭, ‬or medium-range‭) ‬have become indispensable tools for modern armies‭, ‬as they have become a necessary replacement for conventional munitions in many cases‭, ‬alleviating the logistical burdens for modern armies‭.‬

High precision weapons VS ground forces

The application of the‭ “‬fire and forget‭” ‬theory necessitated the development of weapons that work according to new physical principles‭, ‬and these weapons must combine a powerful warhead with an accurate delivery system that allows for maximum effect on the‭ ‬precisely specified target‭, ‬at any time‭, ‬and in any weather‭, ‬no matter how intense the enemy’s resistance‭, ‬with the first shot‭ ‬and with a CEP above 0.5‭ – ‬0.8‭, ‬and the‭ ‬“non-nuclear”‭ ‬tactical and operational weapon that meets these requirements is called a‭ ‬“high precision weapon‭.‬”

High-precision weapon systems used in western armies against ground objects and targets include‭:‬

•‭ ‬Missiles‭, ‬bombs‭, ‬air-guided incubators‭, ‬and munitions‭ (‬projectiles‭) ‬fired by field artillery‭.‬

•‭ ‬Anti-tank missile systems launched from air and ground platforms‭.‬

•‭ ‬Armed reconnaissance systems‭ ‬

High-precision field artillery munitions and projectiles

NATO military experts believe that guided or self-guided munitions and projectiles fired by field artillery and rockets are the‭ ‬main means of increasing firing accuracy for field guns as well as the most effective means of combating tanks at long distances‭, ‬by firing from concealed firing positions‭.‬

These ammunitions must meet the following requirements and conditions‭: ‬

•‭ ‬The range of a projectile should not be less than 0.8‭ ‬of the range of traditional projectiles‭. ‬

•‭ ‬The accuracy should not be less than 9%‭ ‬of the probable circular error of traditional projectiles

•‭ ‬The weapon’s effectiveness must be maintained even in conditions of interference such as smoke curtains‭, ‬dust‭, ‬and decoy targets‭.‬

•‭ ‬The self-guidance system must be able to indicate the targets up to the distance required for the warhead to proceed on its own‭ (‬2-‭ ‬5‭ ‬km‭).‬

These projectiles include the American 155mm hollow shell‭ (‬Copperhead‭) ‬AM-712‭, ‬made in the USA with a range of 16-20‭ ‬km and a 5‭.‬0-7.0‭ ‬probability of success from the first shot‭, ‬and a new model was developed with a longer range of 3-40‭ ‬km and probability of success up to 8.0‭.‬

The shell weighs 3.62‭ ‬kg with a length of 1380‭ ‬mm and is equipped with a semi-active laser targeting system that enables it to effectively target various armored targets‭.‬

Another example of these projectiles is the 2.203‭ ‬mm XM-836‭ ‬Sadarm‭ (‬sense and destroy armor‭), ‬which is made in the USA and has a‭ (‬pod‭) ‬capable of housing 3‭ ‬Sadarms‭, ‬with a maximum firing range of 23‭ ‬km‭.‬

The XM-836‭ ‬weighs 92‭ -‬100‭ ‬kg‭, ‬has a length of 1140‭ ‬mm‭, ‬and is equipped with a passive radio-metric guidance system‭, ‬which enables it to target tanks‭, ‬armored vehicles‭, ‬and armored personnel carriers with a 0.25‭ ‬CEP‭.‬

Two other 155‭ ‬mm self-guided projectiles were subsequently manufactured‭, ‬the‭ (‬XM-836‭) ‬and the‭ (‬XM-898‭), ‬the first is a miniature‭ ‬model of the 2.203‭ ‬mm projectile‭, ‬while the second‭ (‬XM-898‭) ‬consists of a body‭, ‬six precision-guided combat elements‭, ‬a detonator and padding‭, ‬the latter is guided by semi-active laser or radar guidance‭.‬

The GAMP program‭, ‬which includes the manufacturing of a guided shell for the 7.106‭ ‬mm mortars containing two skeet elements‭, ‬is‭ ‬currently underway in the US‭.‬

The maximum range of this projectile is up to 6‭ ‬km‭, ‬and the probability of hitting the target with the first shot is 6.0‭, ‬with a‭ ‬CEP of more than a meter‭.‬

This projectile weighs 15‭ ‬kg‭, ‬and it is equipped with a semi-active laser or a passive infrared guidance system‭.‬

It is also important to mention the multi-barrel rocket launchers‭, ‬such as the American MLRS‭, ‬which fires unguided M-77‭ ‬missiles‭, ‬with a length of 7.393‭ ‬m‭, ‬a weight of 7.305‭ ‬kg‭, ‬and a range of up to 32‭ ‬km‭, ‬and the warhead consists of small anti-personnel and other combat equipment bombs‭.‬

Use of high-precision weapons

High-precision weapons can be deployed as land‭, ‬sea‭, ‬air‭, ‬or space weapons‭, ‬depending on the circumstances‭, ‬so that surface-to-air missiles can be fully integrated with the general air defense system‭. ‬

‮ «‬Dr‭. ‬Moeen Ahmed Mahmoud‭ ‬‭(‬researcher in political and strategic affairs‭)‬

Al Jundi

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