- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2003

JDAMs are now the key to victory in any war fought by the United States. Dirt cheap by Pentagon standards at $18,000 each, these Joint Direct Attack Munitions carry a tail kit that turns dumb bombs into smart ones. They have revolutionized warfare more than any other weapons system. They can be launched from almost any warplane up to 15 miles from the target in any weather and strike within 10 feet of the intended target. But Operation Iraqi Freedom almost exhausted the Pentagon's inventory of JDAMs, and Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems in St. Louis has just received a rush order for 30,000.
Boeing's fully automated plant in St. Charles, Mo., works round the clock and requires only 20 specialists to operate. Its current rate of production of 3,000 JDAMs a month is being stepped up with new facilities. The Pentagon is not ready to take on the other two members of the "axis of evil" Iran and North Korea or "almost as evil" Syria until the JDAM stockpile has been replenished. A standby capability of 40,000 JDAMs is the new target.
Over Iraq, Air Force F-15E fighters launched five 2,000-pound JDAMs on five separate targets.
Wars by remote control draw ever closer to reality. JASSM, or air-to-surface standoff missiles, carried by a wide variety of warplanes, including all bombers and most fighter-bombers, can be launched 200 miles from the target.
LOCAAS for low-cost autonomous attack system is a lightweight, 3-foot cruise missile powered by a 30-pound turbojet engine that has a range of 100 miles, and is designed to hit moving targets as well as bunkers. It also performs tight turns while pursuing a mobile target.
The latest Tomahawk cruise missile can be reprogrammed in flight to strike any of 15 preprogrammed alternate targets, or be totally redirected to any GPS targeting coordinates. It can even loiter over a target for several hours.
Remote control warfare will come of age with Boeing's X-45A, an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) that operates up to 45,000 feet, twice as high as the Predator, and carry any ordnance in the Air Force arsenal, including 2,000-pound satellite-guided smart bombs. The Predator carries a single Hellfire missile. The X-45A will have to same payload as an F/A-18.
In World War II, it took literally thousands of sorties to destroy a single target in Germany. Now, it's no more than two.
JDAM was first used in the 78-day bombing campaign against Serbia and Kosovo in 1999. Of the 12,000 bombs dropped on Afghanistan in 2001, 7,200, or 60 percent, were precision-guided (4,600 of them JDAMs).
In the Iraqi campaign, precision-guided munitions hit some 18,000 targets before the Marines rolled into Baghdad.
JDAMs probably convinced the Syrian regime to comply with U.S. demands that it cease sheltering ranking Iraqi officials and facilitating the transit of hundreds of Arab volunteers for suicide missions against the U.S. military in Iraq.
By October, when JDAMs will be plentiful again, Syria can expect renewed U.S. pressure against the terrorist groups it protects in Lebanon, a de facto Syrian protectorate.
Iran, meanwhile, is flooding southern Iraq with religious agitators, already fanning the flames of anti-Americanism. Iran's religious leaders have many scores to settle with Iraq, the country that went to war against Iran in 1980, a war that lasted eight years and caused almost 1 million killed.
The Tehran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq has been quick to capitalize on the power vacuum in the south around Basra. Hundreds of professional "organizers" have crossed the now unpatrolled border from Iran to Iraq. They are busy proselytizing on behalf of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr Al-Hakim, the Council's Iran-based leader who will be moving his headquarters to Basra shortly.
Keeping Iraq together as a unitary state is a formidable challenge. Covert assistance from Syria and Iran to the spoilers is a virtual certainty. Another Lebanon, torn asunder by violence and religious extremism, is an all too plausible scenario.
Neither Syria nor Iran are going to change into peace-loving democracies because of any example Iraq might set under U.S. guidance. Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based, Iran-backed and Syria-protected terrorist group, has already declared that U.S. "occupation forces in Iraq" are fair game.
James Woolsey, a former CIA director (1993-95) and a candidate for shadow information minister in an interim Iraqi administration, keeps reminding us that we have been in World War IV ever since the end of the Cold War (which was World War III). That JDAMs will be back in action later this year is an even-odds bet.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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