works as advertised." -- Capt. Don Godier, F-16 pilot.
That kill record included the Than Hoa
Bridge. After many tries, the Than Hoa was dropped for good during the war on
May 13, 1972. Also during the Linebacker raids, it was the Paveway bombs which
brought about dropping a span of the equally vexing Paul Doumier bridge -- the
despised Hanoi target of many Air Force and Navy aircrews -- and putting that
bridge out of commission for the rest of the war. Paveway became the star of
the Linebacker bombing campaigns. Air Force leaders altered their tactics,
sending fewer fighter bombers up North because of the accuracy of the bombs
meant they only had to rely on the laser guided bomb equipped fighters. The
raids, which were designed to bring North Vietnam back to the Paris peace talks,
were the first to use precision guided munitions like the laser guided bombs in
integrated bombing tactics.
Yet two decades would pass, before the laser guided bombs became the focus of
global attention during another, more popular conflict, the Gulf War. As
accurate and well publicized as the Paveway bombs were, it was the use of laser
guided bombs and other precision guided munitions in late 1995 during Operation
Deliberate Force over Bosnia which made them an instrument of foreign policy.
The bombs were used with precision to surgically remove artillery emplacements,
ammunition storage areas and command posts from troops which had killed and
brought suffering to the people of the former Yugoslavia.
A burst of flak
or shoulder launched surface to air missile can cripple or destroy an aircraft
and force a pilot to eject and face death or capture. A misplaced bomb can
bring tragedy to the people military air forces are trying to protect. To U.S.
Air Force Captains Brick Izzi and Don Godier, who both flew strikes with the
555th Fighter Squadron during Deliberate Force, there are few other proven ways
in limited combat to limit needless civilian and friendly deaths than to use
laser guided bombs. The pilots, both weapons officers, flew several
strikes using laser guided bombs, in 1995.
"It works as advertised. One of
the great things about this weapon overall is that I can go and find the target
at range I can stay at a high enough altitude, avoid most of the threats and
then go ahead and deliver my bomb. Then watch my bomb impact, leave the target,
get (a Bomb Damage Assessment through the pod) and then go
home and tell them that no kidding that building is gone," said Godier, who now
flies with the 68th Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
The pods spot the laser on the target, and it makes a record of the damage.
This keeps from sending pilots back on needless missions to verify targets are
destroyed. "It's a feedback loop for the commanders and decision makers. That
keeps the lift going so you don't have to send guys back to i.e. 'recce' the
target. Or send our guys back to destroy something that is already gone," said
Izzi, who flies with the 68th's sister squadron at Moody, the 69th Fighter
The pilots said the weapons were so accurate they were used less
than a mile from civilian structures such as hospitals and apartment complexes
which went virtually undamaged, and no loss of civilian life was reported to the
pilots due to the strikes, they said.
"In Bosnia, the real threat was
collateral damage. You didn't want to drop bombs on the wrong people. So, we
would hang out in the target area as long as we could to make sure our bombs hit
the right place." Izzi said.
"We had the right weapons to do that,"
Many times during the three week long Bosnia strikes,
Godier saw a "frag" or a fragment of an attack order which would direct pilots
against targets that were no longer there. He or another pilot would bring out
the tapes and prove the target no longer existed.
The NATO aircraft
released 1,026 munitions, of which 708 were precision guided weapons. The
raids were very successful and helped to bring the Serbs and Croats to the peace
table. Some three decades after finding that initial $100,000 to develop the
laser guided bomb, Word and his TI team had accomplished the goal of not only
increasing accuracy of bombs, but also of removing aircrews from danger.
Even though the small Texas company which was hardly manufacturing semi
conductors when Word helped to build the laser guided bomb has merged with
Raytheon, within the Texas Instruments of today the legacy of guided weapons is
one to live up to, said Ben Ford who currently manages the Paveway program for TI.
"You're kind of brought up on some
of these legends in Texas Instruments, especially if you were involved in the
Paveway programs," Ford said. "Word and the people that put that first system
together were very bright, capable people. It wouldn't have happened if not for
them. We owe the whole program to their early work."
The engineer who
pushed laser guidance -- Dave Salonimer -- died in the early 1990s. However,
today, Word, Baker and Weaver are all retired, preferring the simple life to the
bustle of engineering weapons systems and spending his time on airplanes headed
to Washington, D.C. Word believes that even though a bomb is still a weapon of
war, the laser guided concept helped save lives during Vietnam.
kind of puts it in perspective for me. The people on the Air Staff, when
Vietnam was over told us that there was probably 100,000 body bags that didn't
come home because of Paveway. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but
that sort of puts it in a term that puts goose bumps on the back of your neck,"