Defense, Power & Security, Technology Smart bombs have gone global
Basic Page Sidebar Menu Perry World House
March 25, 2021
Early in the Vietnam war, American forces identified 27 vital infrastructure targets in North Vietnam. The first 26 were destroyed from the air. The 27th—the Thanh Hoa bridge, known as “Dragon’s Jaw”—proved a tougher nut to crack. Only after five years, nearly 900 sorties and 11 lost planes did the Americans smash the bridge, recounts Michael Spencer, an Australian air-force pilot, in a study published in 2019.
It took a new breed of weapon: the laser-guided bomb, which had the added benefit of allowing pilots to stay at a safer distance and altitude from their targets. In a recent working paper, Lauren Kahn and Michael Horowitz, both of the University of Pennsylvania, examine how and why smart bombs, as they became known, spread across global arsenals (the study excludes other precision-guided munitions, such as missiles).