- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

U.S. forces are expected to unsheathe several new weapons and tactics in Iraq, including devices still under development.
Military officials and analysts say the new weapons would target Iraqi armored vehicles, communications networks and the chemical and biological weapons the Bush administration believes Iraq still cradles.
"The only time you get realistic feedback on new capabilities is during wartime," said Bob Martinage, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense think tank. "The military will take advantage of that time to test new systems."
New arms range from an Air Force munition that spews tank-hunting bomblets to shadowy electromagnetic-burst weapons that can roast the innards of computers and radios.
Some weapons that get used may never be publicized.
"Once you're engaged and you have a capability that's almost ready, you'll try it," said Clark Murdock, a former Air Force strategic planner now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "All kinds of things have been invented, particularly in the [classified] world, that will be used. If you use it and it works and no one knows, why talk about it?"
The Pentagon has developed penetrating bombs aimed at incinerating stocks of chemical and biological agents, said Mr. Martinage and Andrew Koch of Jane's Information Group.
Precision-guided "agent defeat" bombs are supposed to puncture the warheads with titanium rods, then incinerate the agents inside without allowing vapor to escape, Mr. Martinage said.
Laser weapons, designed to blind opponents or disable weapons' firing optics, also might see their first use by U.S. forces, said Rupert Pengelley, technical editor of Jane's Information Group. The Army equipped its Bradley Fighting Vehicles with laser weapons in the 1991 Gulf War, but they were never used, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
In a pair of 1995 studies, Human Rights Watch called for a ban on laser arms, which it labeled "unnecessarily cruel and injurious." But Mr. Pengelley said the U.S. military, which has been developing lasers for roles that include missile defense and air-ground attacks, believes it "can now use this in a fitting and legal manner on the battlefield."
A new Pandora's Box-like bomb, dubbed the Sensor Fuzed Weapon, may supplant aircraft in some dangerous ground-attack missions. In the gulf war, coalition pilots hunting Iraqi tanks often flew at low altitudes in the A-10 "Warthog," which dates from the 1970s.
When dropped above groups of armored vehicles, the bomb distributes several smaller bomblets that float toward earth on parachutes. Each fires four hockey puck-sized "skeet" that can home in on vehicles using laser seekers, said Steve Butler, engineering director at the Air Armaments Center at Eglin Air Force Base, near Pensacola, Fla.
One aircraft toting 30 of the weapons can puncture and blow up vehicles across 30 acres, he said.
The Sensor Fuzed bombs were available in the 1999 Kosovo conflict, but U.S. forces never found an appropriate concentration of Serbian armor on which to test them, said Air Armaments Center spokesman Jake Swinson.
The Air Force also might fire a stealthy new missile dubbed the JASSM, or Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, with an accurate range of 200 miles, Mr. Butler said. The satellite-guided JASSM uses an infrared seeker to recognize targets stored in its memory. The missile is being readied for Iraq although the Air Force has yet to complete testing, Mr. Butler and others said.
One key job for U.S. forces is to smash Iraq's military communications networks, analysts said.
The military will focus especially on communications networks that control ballistic missiles, analysts said.
The Air Force has so-called "bunker busting" bombs designed to penetrate the concrete shelters that often protect such equipment.
But if civilians are nearby, U.S. forces may fire a cruise missile tipped with a high-powered electromagnetic-pulse emitter a so-called e-bomb "which fries the electronics without killing the people," Mr. Koch said.
Some analysts doubt flashy technology would be much good if the war bogs down in street-to-street fighting.
"The downsides of urban combat outweigh all the progress of the last 12 years, by a lot," said Michael O'Hanlon, military analyst with the Brookings Institution.


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