Sale of U.S. Smart Bombs Causes Concern About the Cost of War

Cable News Network CNN WORLDVIEW
November 19, 1999; Friday 18:00 pm ET
Judy Woodruff, Jamie McIntyre

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. allies are rushing to buy the most sophisticated so U.S. smart bomb, a satellite-guided weapon called J-DAM. But concern is growing that the high-tech weapon will make it easier for countries to choose military rather than political action when faced with a crisis.

CNN Military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia, U.S. B-2 stealth bombers dropped 652 J-DAMs, short for Joint Direct Attack Munitions, on fixed targets. The results were astounding. Because the satellite-guided bombs are unaffected by cloud cover, every bomb hit its intended target, including the Chinese embassy, which the U.S. insists was targeted by mistake.

No weapons system before has ever attained 100 percent accuracy in war.

JOHN PIKE, FED. OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: It's a precise weapon. It's inexpensive, it's highly effective, and it's basically the future of aerial warfare. This is one of the big success stories that the military's had for quite some time.

MCINTYRE: The J-DAM is dirt cheap. It's basically a conversion kit that adds fins, a satellite receiver and an electric motor to a standard dumb bomb. The price is less than $20,000.

Compare that to the $438,000 price tag for another new high-tech weapon, the AGM-130. That optically guided bomb, while highly accurate, caused civilian deaths in both Yugoslavia, when it hit a passenger train, and Iraq, when it hit a town.

The U.S. military has more than 87,000 J-DAMs on order and is planning to put them on virtually every bomber in the U.S. inventory. CNN has learned that F-18s from the U.S. aircraft carrier Kennedy dropped J-DAMs on an SA-3 missile site in Iraq last week, the first time the U.S. Navy has used the new weapon of choice.

(on camera): Now U.S. allies are lining up to buy the bargain bomb. Israel has already purchased 700. Great Britain is next. But the worry among some is that the revolutionary new weapon could fundamentally change the cost of war.

PIKE: In the past, war required a sacrifice of blood and treasure. Now it only requires the sacrifice of treasure. And in the future, a lot less treasure than it has in the past.

MCINTYRE (voice-over): Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

copyright 1999 Cable News Network