Basically, an ordinary bomb is explosive material that is put in to a hard case with a fuze (yes, that’s fuze, not fuse (American English)). This fuze has a simple system that helps the bomb work:
a time-delay system, an impact sensor or a target-proximity sensor.
A “dumb bomb” is a bomb with only these elements, it is just dropped from an airplane. The bomb is “dumb” because it simply falls down to the ground without controlling itself. But if we need to hit a particular place, an airplane might have to drop hundreds of dumb bombs to destroy it completely.
But “Smart bombs” control themselves when they are falling. (They are not like missiles to have engines) So you can destroy a place with only one bomb.
Smart Bomb Basics
A smart bomb is actually an ordinary dumb bomb with a few big differences. In addition to the usual fuze systems that we talked about before and explosive material, it has:
- an electronic sensor system
- a control system (an onboard computer)
- a set of fins that can control the bomb to the left and right(small wings)
- a battery
When a plane drops a smart bomb, the bomb becomes a glider. It doesn’t have any engine, like a missile, but it naturally moves down toward the earth. It also has flight fins that guide the bomb so the bomb can easily turn to different directions like an airplane that is coming down for landing.
While the bomb is flying (not just falling) the sensor system and control system look for the enemy’s place on the ground and move the bomb toward it.
This controlled falling down continues until the smart bomb gets to its target, and the fuze system works at that moment and… “”BOMB!!””. Smart bombs generally have proximity fuzes, which explode the bomb just before the bomb hits the target, or impact fuzes, which works when the bomb really hits something.
But we have different smart bombs. Continue reading to learn more:
Yesterday’s Smart Bombs
Up until recently, most smart bombs were either TV/IR (Infra Red)-guided or laser-guided. Both types of bombs use camera-like sensors to locate ground targets.
A TV/IR-guided bomb has either video camera or an infrared camera (for night) on its nose and a human operator who is usually the airplanes pilot and controls the bomb. Here the bomb is like a remote-control plane.
In automatic mode, the pilot finds a target through the bomb’s video camera before firing it and sends a signal to the bomb to tell it to always look at the target until the bomb gets to the target.
Laser-guided smart bombs work a little differently. Instead of a video camera, the bomb has a laser finder. For the bomb to see its target, a human operator, either a soldier on the ground or the pilot on the airplane, has to send laser light to the target for the bomb to see. The bomb’s laser finder finds it and goes toward it.
But what if another person (enemy) sends another laser light to another unimportant place to confuse the bomb?
The laser has a special pattern and frequency and the bombs sensor looks for only that laser with that frequency and pattern.
Both of these systems can be very good, but they have one major problem:
What if the weather is not clear!? .
AND NOW today’s smart bombs next.
The most modern smart bomb of the day is Boeing’s JDAM, which stands for Joint Direct Attack Munition. The JDAM has inertial guidance system and a GPS receiver. Both the GPS receiver and the inertial guidance system allow the bomb to locate itself in space. Before dropping the bomb, the airplane uses its own GPS receiver to find particular targets on the ground. Just before releasing the bomb, the aircraft’s computer gives the bomb’s computer its latest position and the GPS information of the target.
The basic design of the JDAM bomb
In the air, the JDAM’s GPS receiver uses signals from GPS satellites to find its own position. Like other smart bombs, the control system guides the bomb in the right direction.
This system works fine even in bad weather, because the JDAM gets all its information from satellite signals, which aren’t blocked by clouds or anything else. The bomb doesn’t have to see anything at all to find its way to the target.
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