We are told (old news now that Azovstal has been relieved or evacuated or however the West now spells surrendered) that Russia is so short of smart bombs that it’s hitting Azovstal with dumb bombs.
Well, the short and the simple is this – Russia doesn’t have any dumb bombs – they’ve all been sent to school.
Let me explain.
It’s World War 2, you’re in a bomber flying from a base in England to a target in Germany 500 miles away. You have a sophisticated bomb sight that can “put a bomb in a pickle barrel” but only if it has really accurate inputs. What’s your altitude? That is calculated by a barometer; you set it when you left your base but you’re 500 miles away and the air pressure is different. So the altitude your gauge tells you has a big plus or minus. What’s your speed over the ground? You have a reasonably good take on your airspeed (plus or minus) but that’s not – given winds – what your ground speed is. So that’s another estimate. And where are you anyway? You have a navigator and a lot of maps but it’s really only dead reckoning and there are plenty of ways that that can go wrong; so a huge plus or minus on that input. Later in the war you have Oboe and that makes the plus or minus a lot smaller but still not zero. And the Germans have turned all the lights off and done everything they can think of to make your target look like a forest and a forest look like your target. And where is the target anyway? The bomb sight only works if you can actually see it. So clouds, smoke pots, camouflage add another level to the estimation. In actual use, your bomb sight is 16 times less accurate than you were told it was.
In short, in World War 2, the safest place to be was on the actual aiming point – you could be pretty confident that no bomb would actually hit you but, all around you, lots of random destruction.
And that was the way things were for a long time. Japanese kamikaze planes were a sort of guided missile, the Germans had a few early radar guided missiles, the Soviets were working on prototypes but the Americans got there first.
The famous Thanh Hóa Bridge in Vietnam. A perfect illustration that the safest place to be is on the aiming point. Many, many WW2 style raids with no effect. So the Americans figured out the first smart bomb that really worked. Illuminate the target with a laser; put a doohickey on a dumb bomb that 1) can detect the reflected laser beam and 2) move the falling bomb just enough to keep it in the beam; down it goes and breaks the bridge.
Since then, the Americans have developed three families of smart bombs. The laser-guided ones; the TV camera in the nose missiles, the GPS-guided ones. But – note this, because it’s important – all of them have the doohickey in the bomb itself. Here are the doohickeys on the 1) laser-guided 2) TV guided 3) GPS-guided. The doohickeys detect the signal and have enough movement to keep the bomb on line. But, when they hit, the doohickeys are blown up too. Good for the military-industrial complex, of course, because they have to be replaced and they’re not cheap.
There’s a story – maybe it’s not true but it is illustrative – that the Americans spent huge sums of money developing a ball-point pen that would work in space; the Soviets used a pencil. But the point of this is clear: the US approach is always high-tech; the Russian is KISS.
So, let’s go back to your WW2 bomber. Suppose you knew – to a really high degree of precision – what your altitude was, what your ground speed was, precisely where you were and where the target was. Imagine if you had a set of satellites up there that could tell you all these things. And you also knew a lot of other esoteric things (like the glide characteristics of your bombs) and you had the best possible weather information over your target. All this and every other scrap of information you needed. If you knew all this, and had a computer to work it out, then you could just drop your dumb bomb when the computer told you to and it would passively glide to the target.
And that is what the Russians have done. Explained here with more detail but by now you have the idea. The Russian global positioning system – GLONASS – gives them the necessary data, the computer doohickey in the plane calculates and drops the dumb bomb at exactly the right time. All the data inputs are known to a very high degree of accuracy. The bomb is just as dumb as it ever was but the doohickey on the plane makes it fall at precisely the moment when its dumbness doesn’t matter. For the American solution communication has to be continuous – break the link and Mr Smart Bomb’s IQ drops into single digits. For the Russians, it doesn’t matter – gravity and inertia will get Mr Dumbo to the target – fly in the general direction, push the button, let the computer do the work and forget it.
Therefore, Russia doesn’t have any more dumb bombs because it’s figured out a way to make them all smart; and one thing Russia has learned from the World War 2 experience is that you can’t have too much ammunition – there are lots of bombs.
But, maybe this is too complicated for our generals – computer game, whatever.
Senior year in high school (1969) physics class we did bomb drop simulations. It is not really rocket science, it is just covering the main variables to the greatest degree possible. There are many variables, the big ones are easily plugged in thought standard instrument readings. The remaining ones are small but add up in aggregate, but you might miss the pickle jar but you will come close enough for government work.
I’m old enough to remember when Belenko detected with his MIG-25. I remember the first impressions of the mythical FoxBat. Not complimentary.
It was only after much deeper examination did the west realize that it might have been relatively crude, it was inexpensive, easy to make in quantity, fast, reliable and EMP hardened before the west was completely certain what EMP actually was.
It should have been an educational moment but sadly was not.
I remember the defecting MIG 25. The press were laughing their asses off, no flush rivets and planes going rusty. The press had no more understanding of what was going on then than they do now.
Sam McGowan says
Larry, let me start by saying that the media is dumb as F***K. They keep referring to concrete airplane parking ramps as “tarmac” when I doubt if there has EVER been a runway or parking ramp made out of Tarmac, which was an improved version of macadam. I spent 40 years in aviation and NEVER heard anyone refer to the ramp as “the tarmac,” it was always “the ramp.” Now, bombs. It so happens I personally dropped something like a hundred of some really big bombs, as in ten and fifteen-thousand pound ones. We dropped from 5,000 feet AGL under radar guidance from an MSQ-77 “Skyspot” radar site and we could hit a house. World War II bombardiers were capable of great accuracy but bomber formations consisted of dozens, if not hundreds, of airplanes and Eighth Air Force tactics called for the use of lead crews to drop on the target with the rest of the formation dropping on their lead. It was called saturation bombing and a raid was considered effective if so many bombs fell within a specified circle around the target. The British and later Curtis Lemay’s B-29s dropped incendiaries on German and Japanese cities. That Thanh Hoa Bridge didn’t keep standing for so long because bombs weren’t hitting it but rather because it was so well-constructed that the Bullpup missiles and 1,000-pound bombs weren’t able to damage it enough to knock it down. Why they never sent a formation of B-52s after it is beyond me. I guess LBJ was afraid it might cause China to enter the war (remember that he halted all bombing in North Vietnam just before the 1968 election and bombing didn’t resume until 1972.)
When it comes to bombs, so-called “smart” weapons are expensive, damned expensive. Conventional bombs don’t cost much – all that’s needed is some TNT, ammonium nitrate or some other explosive and some kind of case. They’re highly effective. For example, an F-105 pilot I know and his wingman broke up the North Vietnamese attack on the camp at Kham Duc with fourteen thousand-pound bombs. (They were on their way to bomb a target in North Vietnam when they were diverted to Kham Duc, which was under siege.) If the Russians aren’t using unguided bombs (their fighters are surely equipped with bombing computers, ours are), I’d be mighty surprised. Guided bombs are designed to be used against specific high-value targets whether they use GPS or low-light television guidance. They cost too much to be used against bunkers and other low-value targets. Better to drop a load of conventional bombs than a $200,000 “smart bomb.”
The main problem Russian pilots face are Stingers and SAMs. I don’t know what kind of system Ukraine has when it comes to SAMS but Stingers are only effective to about 12,000 feet. US pilots normally drop from as high as 15,000 feet, which puts them well above most antiaircraft and portable SAMs. The presence of SAMS, including Stingers, and AAA would affect bombing accuracy.
Sam McGowan says
I meant to include this link – http://www.sammcgowan.com/bomber.html
media dumb ? because they perceive their audience also dumb (western ignorant citizen mass). why bother with techincally accurate propaganda when one can made up kindergarten level propaganda and still get sway with it ?
decades of smearing russian and chinese weapon system as inferior low tech and hyping western military tech as superb modern incomparable system ruin the mind of westerner who instead of reading history books , they prefer to get their mind set by jingoist fiction movies ala Top Gun , Navy SEALs (charlie sheen one) , and many hollywood propaganda ones.
the look of disbelief on these people faces when i pointed the historical fact that US lost more than 4000 fix wing aircraft AND 4000 rotor craft in vietnam.. they still cant accept this facf
Syrian theatre showed that GPS guided bombs with Range extension kit are vunerable to be intercepted by AD and jammed as it is slow and dependant on GPS and without it they resort to internal gyro which far less accurate.
The US war planner got their latest experience fighting insurgents with no A2AD and thus created many thingamajic boondogle far suitable for LIC instead of weapons that effective against peer level enemy. As was proven when FUKUS warship launched cruise missiles in tandem with IAF jets and majority of the missiles was intercepted by Syrian upgraded AD.
And this is not even indicative of the disaster waiting for NATO during peer war , when their space based ISR , comm and GPS degraded by enemy and their airborne assets like awacs and refueler and ISR got targetted by long range missiles. NATO never seriously trained under fill EMCON and in real war they will have to adjust or else.
M Droy says
As I recall the smart doohickey costs the same – $100k whether it is on the bomb or the plane. It is reusable unless you blow it up deliberately.
MIC knew which more profitable lol , $100 for each plane guidance system or $100 on each ordnance launched. More profit on them who cares about cost efficiency
Enjoyed the way you described this subject, clear and with humor. As past pilot aware of the sneakiness of local pressure and air movement being mischievous. With much younger eye-sight used second hand of life saving breitling navitimer watch to calculate true land speed, also useful calculating time to hop over next power line seconds apart when ground speed is to be taken seriously, but I deny saying that.
Keith Harbaugh says
For the subject described by its title,
the following is, IMO, quite good:
The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945, by Jorg Friedrich.
(Too bad an ebook edition does not seem to be available.
Could there be a reason for that?)
It gives extensive discussion of both sides of the campaign:
1. What the RAF and 8th Air Force did to make their bombing so destructive to Germany’s civilian population
(notably the use of constructed-from-wood Mosquito Pathfinders), and
2. The effect of those tactics on Germany’s civilian population and cultural heritage.
Keith Harbaugh says
The title and author should be stated as :
The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945, by Jörg Friedrich.
In copying that information, I left some things out.
Also, here is a hyperlinked reference:
Sorry for my ignorance, but what does KISS mean in “The Russian approach is KISS”?
keep it simple stupid principle
My dad taught me that… he was a great programmer and Information Business Systems executive, BUT the useful version of KISS is what Einstein said, “Keep it as simple AS POSSIBLE.”
That I learned WAY later in life, and is the better rule of thumb…
also in this war we saw the vunerability of helicopters especially the transport ones , like the numerous MI8 shotdown during their failed azovtal extraction or during their snake island debacle.
anyone old enough to remember how in just one campaign during Lam Son 712 the South vietnamese and US forces lost 600+ helicopters destroyed or unrepairable , for a one month campaign the butcher bill is enormous.
the “best” military aka IDF tried to insert paratroopers north of litani river (because they cant breach hezbolla defense belt in south) and their insertion helo got shotdown by heroic hezbollah fighters killing all crew aboard the CH53. the landed para have to walk back as no helicopter allowed to pickthem up
imagine if somali warlords have numerous stingers , how many more blackhawk will be shotdown?
“imagine if somali warlords have numerous stingers , how many more blackhawk will be shotdown?”
I have a feeling we are going to find out.
Only an idiot would believe none of those weapons will get diverted, sold to bad actors everywhere. This is going to haunt the west for quite some time.
An interesting behavior I’ve noticed watching “the war on terror” the US had “fought” over decades now is:
1) If regular ppl are being killed it’s stuff like Operation Gladio, i.e., our own gov’ts killing us.
2) If gov’t personnel, equip, locations are being targeted, that’s “real” terrorism, because that’s also how it works in the ME…
Imo, as the Ukronazis sell most of the valuable stuff they get from NATO to 3rd parties for money, we will be seeing commercial airliners get shot down… therefore, gov’ts killing their own ppl…
Wait for it… wait for it… assuming we still have enough pilots to fly commercial jets. Reports are pilot shortages are severe and won’t change in the short term, because when you waxinate a population, “they all quit…” Yeah, they all quit, that’s it.
My cousin was a United pilot. Refused the Vax and took early retirement.
They are begging him to come back at what would have been in past insane levels of compensation.
I recently got stuck in Las Vegas, a Delta flight. They never announced or admitted but we saw through the gate window, Las Vegas Fire Rescue cart him off on a stretcher.
the single factor overlooked is the most fundamental and only those who grew up poor can understand the difference between the russian methodology and the american one for delivering munitions to their targets as accurately and as cheaply as possible.
someone said price is what you pay but value is what you get
the russian military now and the soviets before never have had the benefit of a reserve currency or the ability to waste money having had much less of it than was and is available to the pentagon. thrift was the order of the day for moscow.
the other important difference between the russian mod and pentagon is procurement. most of the weaponry produced in russia comes form state owned or state controlled corporations that work within budgetary constraints.
all of that is private in the usa with the emphasis on profit to the corporation not supplying what makes the best sense. look at the f35 and littoral ship fiasco to understand military procurement now is SCAM based in the usa and has nothing to do with real national defense.
against russia and i suspect china the pentagon does not have a prayer of winning conventionally unless it wants to use atomic weapons and even then it will be a tie at best……..everyone dies.
D.E. Murray says
How are the Ukrainians getting howitzers?
As far as I’ve read the Russian sources our 777s (made with Russian titanium, so don’t expect the MIC to replace them, cause they can’t make any more), are being shipped with NATO soldier “volunteers” to fire them as well. The whole bs that they are downgraded by taking out the digital firing systems is false, I’ve seen pics of 777s in the Ukraine with the US DFS, and the Ukronazis have their version of the DFS for the 777s as well, so if they aren’t making a significant difference on the battlefield it’s not because we are sending stuff that is kneecapped.
As far as I’m concerned, we have sent to the Ukronazis first tier, best stuff to the Ukraine. We will see PAK 3s destroyed soon as well. They have only a 180 degree radar coverage, so they will all be performing as well as they have in Saudi Arabia protecting their Oil infrastructure… that is, by failing to protect their Oil infrastructure…
I’m so ashamed of my MIC and country right now.
The weapons systems developed by the US MIC always achieve 100% of their actual design objectives.
It doesn’t look like it because most people don’t understand what they real design objectives were.
1. Enhance shareholder value
2. Huge executive bonus checks
3. New 6 figure VP or board positions for retired 3-4stars
4. Lots of expensive maintenance and spare parts orders.
5. Jobs in key Congressional districts when widgets are made in 12 different strategically placed factories.
6. Lots of PAC contributions to members of key committees.
7. The strong probability that they will never actually be used in combat.
8. Captured market for continued sales to NATO and other allies.
9. Repeat to item #1
That sums it up!
D.E. Murray says
“are being shipped with NATO soldier “volunteers””
How are they getting past the Russians into the Donbass?
Eric Newhill says
You’re “ashamed” of the “MIC and country”?
You are not an American. Stop trying to pretend to be one.
As far as I’m concerned, if you have a point to make, make it and make it with facts and analysis, not with BS. The troll farm is seriously underestimating the ability of Americans to identify trolls. Some of us are patriots. We don’t hate America. Don’t try to play off the assumption that do or can be made to. I would kill a million or more of whatever country you work for before turning against my own. It’s one thing to criticize the direction m country is taking and entirely another to side with an enemy, who I’m pretty sure you are.
Eric Newhill says
“Don’t try to play off the assumption *we* that do or can be made to.”
“It’s one thing to criticize the direction *my* country is taking and entirely another to side with an enemy”
You f’ing foreign bots never understand that in America we get to criticize our government’s behavior because you don’t get to do that in whatever hell hole you’re a citizen of. My guess would be Chinese. I’ve met and talked to some Chinese intel assets. They thought they were clever and duping me. They weren’t. They thought I was a “cowboy” and I thought they were “ant people” with a hive mind. I still believe that my perceptions were corrects (and remain correct). You will never understand because the hive mindset is ingrained in you.
Are you saying Russia’s history of fighting wars to defend their homeland, not drone striking wedding parties and funeral processions in deserts against ppl in sandals and no air force or A2/AD like the US’ experience over the last 20 years made a difference?
Are you saying our war colleges and unis are inferior to Russia’s because if Russia focused on diversity and inclusion, they would no longer exist as a country or a ppl, so they had to actually focus on war!?
Stupid is as stupid does I guess.
Why hasn’t anyone noticed that the US/UK/NATO is in the process of being demilitarized as well yet? Isn’t when you have far less ppl, equip, material and ammo mean you are in the process of being demilitarized? Is the “pilot” shortage in the US commercial aircraft section just a reflection of our “pilot” shortage for the same reason in our own military? You know after all had been forced to get waxinated, they all “quit?”
Asking for a friend.
It’s too stupid to be just stupid.
My thoughts exactly.
Eric Newhill says
Low budget operation
LJ, very clear explanation – love the pen and pencil story.
I have no knowledge, but I would bet those Russian systems tie into optical systems that correct for anomalous drift on the first bomb to improve accuracy on following ones. Same as we see with Russian artillery.
Hmmm. Iran has a satellite….
One of the most interesting posts I have read for a while. Lot of new stuff I didn’t know about. If they ever get some ‘doohickey’ like this for their MLRS systems that’ll be quite something to see.