Will Bombing Always Be  Risk Free For the Bombers?

                        First Iraq, Now Serbia

                        Despite almost three months of sustained bombing, the
                        Serbian mili
                        tary appear to have been relatively unaffected by the
                        air assault. Serb units withdrawing from Kosovo
                        offered little confirmation of the triumphant bombast
                        spewed forth daily by Pentagon spokesmen and Jamie
                        Shea, the Dr Goebbels of Brussels. Well shaved and
                        fed, in clean uniforms, they had plenty of fuel, and
                        moved with ease along a supposedly shattered road and
                        bridge network. Hardly the demeanor of an army
                        battered into submission by high assaults.

                        This is not to deny that the bombing campaign was
                        disastrous for the Serbian economy. Nato, conscious
                        that the vaunted precision systems are little of use
                        against a well dug in military, devoted the bulk of its
                        attention to civilian targets, notably electrical power
                        systems and the Danube bridges. While Milosevic
                        would probably have been able to continue his defiance
                        of Nato under these attacks, the fatal blow for him was
                        the loss of Russian support.

                        Such realities will have little effect on official postwar
                        analyses. Instead, key "lessons" of the war are being
                        eagerly retailed by the press, the most significant being
                        that the European air forces could make only marginal
                        contributions to the bombing campaign because they
                        lacked precision guided bombing systems and that
                        therefore they had better hurry up and buy some -
                        from the U.S. of course - so that they too can lay
                        waste irksome states at will.

                        On the face of it, once such delights as JDAMS
                        precision guided bombs (the kind that took out the
                        Chinese embassy) repose in their arsenals, the
                        Europeans will be able to attack civilians without fear
                        of casualties. Serbian air defenses, though they did
                        succeed in forcing Nato to bomb from 15,000 feet and
                        higher, managed to shoot down only two of the
                        attacking planes in the entire war. Such ratios,
                        according to friends of CounterPunch in the weapons
                        design community, are unlikely to last for ever.

                        Ever since the 1950s, the air defense sector has
                        whored after the false gods of radar guided missile
                        systems. In essence, these rely on a ground based radar
                        "illuminating" the target and then relaying information
                        on its position to the missile. This was the basis of the
                        Serb air defense network, equipped with Soviet
                        designed SAMs. Radar guided missiles are
                        unsatisfactory in many respects. Because they are
                        necessarily emitting information-the radar signals-the
                        ground based radars must inevitably advertise their
                        precise location, thus rendering themselves liable to
                        targeting and destruction by anti-radiation missiles,
                        launched from planes, which simply home in on the
                        source of the radar beam. Failing that, the signals can
                        be jammed. (It is true that that the Serbs did employ a
                        certain amount of cunning in the deployment of their
                        system, evading destruction by keeping the bulk of the
                        radars switched off, thus forcing Nato to take account
                        of the potential threat posed by these withheld assets
                        and exercise commensurate caution.) A further
                        disadvantage of radar guided missiles lies in their lack
                        of maneuverability. Ever since the Vietnam war, U.S.
                        pilots have been aware that these missiles, especially
                        large models designed for high altitude such as the
                        SAM-2 and the mobile SAM-6, are easily evaded since
                        they cannot follow a target in even a gentle turn.

                        Despite these proven drawbacks, the
                        weapons-producing countries of the developed world
                        (including the Russians) have shown little interest over
                        the past few decades in pursuing imaginative concepts
                        that can be effective against bomber attack. This is to
                        the obvious detriment of developing countries who,
                        since they are the designated targets, are the market for
                        such weapons. Sooner or later someone will realise that
                        there is a rich market waiting for anyone who finds a
                        more effective defense against the bombers.

                        An entirely feasible alternative approach lies in the
                        possibility of missiles with passive guidance systems.
                        These rely on the target itself advertising its location,
                        either by the heat emitted by its engines or the
                        radio/radar signals it necessarily broadcasts in order to
                        locate targets, communicate with other planes, or
                        identify itself as a "friendly" to the rest of the attacking
                        force. The U.S. Sidewinder missile, designed to used in
                        aerial combat, is a tremendously successful
                        heat-seeking missile and has spawned a host of
                        imitations. At one point the U.S. developed the
                        Chaparral system, essentially a ground fired
                        Sidewinder. This proved unsatisfactory as it was too
                        small to carry the propulsive power to propel it to the
                        height and speed of potential targets-a Sidewinder, after
                        all, is launched from aircraft flying at high speed in the
                        vicinity of the target. Ground based heat seeking
                        missiles such as the shoulder fired Soviet SAM-7 or the
                        famous Stinger are obviously too small to be of use
                        against anything but low flying targets.

                        Should anyone with the necessary resources apply
                        themselves to the task, it would be entirely possible to
                        develop a ground launched passive guidance missile
                        with a motor large enough to enable it to reach the
                        target. High speed should not be an essential
                        requirement, since any plane carrying bombs will
                        necessarily be traveling at sub-sonic speed. Of greater
                        importance would be a high degree of potential
                        maneuverability gained through a large wing area on
                        the missile. Ideally, such a missile would carry a dual
                        guidance head, both radar seeking for bringing it to the
                        area of the target and heat seeking for terminal

                        The simplest and oldest means of shooting down a
                        plane are of course guns. Anti-aircraft gunfire is an
                        exercise in prediction, since the target is moving at
                        speed and will therefore have changed its position
                        relative to the gun from the time the bullet is fired to
                        when it arrives in the target area. Thus a hunter aiming
                        at a speeding pheasant "leads" the bird, ie aims just in
                        front of it. A target traveling in a straight line obviously
                        makes the job of prediction easier. Once the target
                        starts to maneuver away from a straight line, the
                        potential for the bullet to miss obviously increases.
                        Therefore the faster the bullet travels, the better chance
                        it has of hitting the plane-more precisely, if the flight
                        time of the bullet is halved, the miss distance will be
                        cut by a factor of four.
                        The speed of a bullet is determined by both its
                        aerodynamic properties and the explosive power of the
                        charge that propels it. Little constructive work has been
                        carried out in this area since World War II, and
                        certainly not by the Soviet designers who created much
                        of the weaponry presently deployed by developing
                        countries. The best on offer is probably the 35 mm
                        round developed by Oerlikon, the Swiss arms
                        manufacturer, which is effective past 10,000 feet.
                        Again, there is no inherent reason why high velocity
                        rounds with higher altitude range could not be

                        Lastly, it seems curious that a crucial component of the
                        Nato air offensive against Serbia was able to function
                        unchallenged. The Global Positioning System, a
                        network of 24 satellites orbiting 11,000 miles above the
                        earth, enables anyone with a receiver to fix their
                        position with great precision by triangulating their
                        location with radio signals transmitted from two or
                        more of the satellites. Nato bombers navigated by
                        means of GPS; the Cruise missiles that rained down on
                        Serbia were directed to their targets by GPS, as were
                        the JDAMS bombs employed in the mysterious strike
                        on the Chinese.

                        It should be a simple matter to jam the GPS radio
                        signals. Indeed a 1994 Rand Corporation study
                        conducted on behalf of the U.S. Air Force, with
                        distribution restricted to the military and defense
                        contractors, concluded that "an extremely low jamming
                        power of one watt will cause loss of code tracking" and
                        therefore "clearly the use of GPS for military
                        applications is extremely vulnerable..." Those engaged
                        in the attacks on civilian and diplomatic targets should
                        be thankful that the defenders did not have recourse to
                        this simple expedient. Future attackers may not enjoy
                        the same immunity.


                        Words that Stand the Test of

                        Back in 1994, our friend Doug Lummis, who teaches
                        in Tokyo, wrote a prophetic attack on the International
                        Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It
                        appeared in The Nation for September 26 of that year.
                        Pointing out the dubious legal standing of this body
                        conjured into being by the UN Security Council, Doug
                        reflected that the Hague-based Tribunal, not to be
                        confused with the World Court, would most likely be
                        "yet another instrument to bind new fetters on the
                        poor, and give new powers to the rich."

                        Then Lummis goes on: "It is a scandal in contemporary
                        international law, don't forget, that while wanton
                        destruction of towns, cities and villages' is a war crime
                        of long standing, the bombing of cities from airplanes
                        goes not only unpublished but virtually unaccused. Air
                        bombardment is state terrorism, the terrorism of the
                        rich. It has burned up and blasted apart more innocents
                        in the past six decades than have all the antistate
                        terrorists who ever lived. Something has benumbed our
                        consciousness against this reality. In the United States
                        we would not consider for the presidency a man who
                        had once thrown a bomb into a crowded restaurant,
                        but we are happy to elect a man who once dropped
                        bombs from airplanes that destroyed not only
                        restaurants but the buildings that contained them and
                        the neighborhoods that surround them."

                        On this very topic, we should add that a Spanish pilot
                        has charged that he and his fellow pilots were given
                        targeting orders by US officers, requiring them to bomb
                        civilian targets. In the Spanish periodical Articulo 20,
                        Captain Adolfo Luis Martin de la Hoz is quoted as
                        saying, on his return >from the bombing war, that
                        "Several times our colonel protested to NATO chiefs as
                        to why they select targets which are not military in
                        nature. They threw him out with curses, saying that we
                        should know that the North Americans would lodge a
                        complaint to the Spanish forces, both through Brussels
                        and to the Defense Minister. But there is more and I
                        want to disclose it to the world. Once there was a
                        coded order from the North American military that we
                        should drop anti-personnel bombs over Pristina and
                        Nis. The colonel refused this altogether and a couple of
                        days later the transfer order came."