: how are bombs dropped from a bomber aircraft able to strike their targets so precisely without risking hitting any civilian infrastructure


: how are bombs dropped from a bomber aircraft able to strike their targets so precisely without risking hitting any civilian infrastructure

In: Other

At the beginning of using planes for military use they just kinda hoped it flew straight and hit the target using optics and math. Nowadays there’s a ton of different kind of bombs, some of which have ir cameras and are guided using a laser pointing at the target.

>strike their targets so precisely without risking hitting any civilian infrastructure

The ones that are are generally what are referred to as “smart bombs” or “guided bombs”. Basically these bombs have various forms of guidance built into them to strike a particular point. GPS guided weapons and laser guided weapons are the two most common methods in more traditional bombs/munitions.

“dumb bombs” such as those used in WWII have various methods to attempt to hit their targets by dropping them at just the right moment, but are crazy inaccurate in comparison to a guided bomb and collateral damage, often a lot, was expected.


Currently there are 2 main ways for precision bombing, Laser and GPS Guided systems.
For Laser targeting, the aircraft uses an infrared camera with lasing capabilities or works in conjunction with troops in the ground and other planes, the bomb has a laser sensor which reveives the information from the laser on the ground and uses its guiding system to move towards it as soon as its dropped, but this requires good visibility from who’s lasing the target, thats where GPS systems shine.
GPS guided bombs can receive the exact longitude and latitude data for the target, this can be accquired through the camera or by using a preplanned method, which requires the intel team to know the target’s location, making it possible to drop the ordnance with any type of weather, no matter the visibility, the bomb will receive the coordinates and guide itself to the desired location

Early bombs were just streamlined metal containers with high explosive inside, modern smart bombs need to be dropped close to their target and as the bomb falls there are fins on the bomb which can alter the aerodynamics of the bomb changing the direction it is going in. The direction change can be the result of a laser designator marking the target and the bomb heading towards the point of the bomb alternatively they can be guided down by a sensor in the nose of the bomb.

First, bombs often do hit civilian infrastructure, governments try to downplay this though, for obvious reasons.

The accuracy of dumb bombs depends on how accurately the plane is following its planned track, on the wind below the plane, the altitude from which the bomb is dropped, the mass and aerodynamics of the bomb, and on the timing of the release.

Smarter bombs will have some form of guidance, maybe aiming at a laser spot somebody is shining on the target, on the heat or radar signature of a vehicle, or preprogrammed GPS coordinates. They then change the angle of control fins to steer towards their target.

The idea that bombs are precision weapons didn’t really exist before the first gulf war. The Americans went to a lot of effort to create and distribute videos showing precision strikes. There wasn’t a news station on Earth that wasn’t showing videos of a crosshair on a rapidly expanding rooftop and then blackness as the bomb impacted on target.

Precision bombing was sold to us as the most moral and compassionate way to wage a war. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were violently killed but we didn’t know that at the time. We were shown laser guided bombs blowing up buildings. We were deliberately distanced from associating human casualty with what was being shown on TV. Which I think has led to the idea that precision bombing is the norm and that civilian infrastructure is not really at risk.

As for the technical side, the bombs can change direction after they are dropped, i.e they don’t fall ballistically. They aim for *something* and alter their trajectory so that the bomb maintains it’s aim. That something can be a point of light. It can be a GPS coordinate. It can be a radio transmission. It just needs to be something that the bomb can identify.

With a lot of modern bombs, there is generally some form of guidance system to puts the warhead on target.

With older stuff, there may be a sighting system of some sort, but that would probably be about it. The bombs will fall in roughly the right area. There is a bit of a caveat to this, which is dive bombers. They would put the plane into a very steep dive before releasing the bomb, theoretically giving a better chance of hitting something.

They don’t.

Precision bombing is more of a marketing term than a reality for the poor sods on the ground.

Smart bombs taking out the target with surgical precision and a minium of collateral damage is what may be aspired to and what is being sold at home, but in practice there are plenty of orphans and widows and amputees that will tell you that precision bombing is not really al that real.

To be fair aerial bombings have gotten more precise since the days of WWII, but it is not at the point yet where it claims to be.