Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Chinese satellites turn ‘dumb’ bombs into ‘smart’ ones

China has been developing the GPS-based kit since 2003. Now that the Beidou positioning system is operational, the smart bombs have gotten smarter

Fears surrounding the commercial debut of the China’s Beidou (北斗) satellite navigation system last week have centered on the development by the Chinese military in recent years of a bomb kit that can transform “dumb” bombs into “smart” ones.

Chief among them is the Lei Shi-6 (LS-6, 雷石-6) “Thunder Stone” precision-guided glide bomb first unveiled by the Luoyang Optoelectro Technology Development Center in late 2006. The guidance “fit,” which is attached to conventional bombs and has deployable wings, can support a number of bomb weights, from 50kg to 500kg.

Once installed, a “dumb” bomb becomes a “standoff” maneuverable precision-guided bomb similar to the US-developed Joint Attack Direct Munition (JDAM), which relies on US satellites for guidance. Unlike laser-guided weapons, projectiles using satellites for guidance can be used in any weather conditions.

Relying on the navigation capabilities provided by the Beidou satellites, aircraft pilots could limit their exposure to an enemy’s aircraft and air defense system by releasing their smart bomb from a distance. The LS-6 has a range of 40km when dropped at an altitude of 8,000m and 60km at 10,000m, bringing its ordnance at a speed of Mach 1 to within 15m of a target.

My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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