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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Afghan bombing 'most accurate ever'
A B-52 bomber in action
US forces dropped thousands of smart bombs
The US military believes the Afghanistan air campaign was the most accurate ever - but 25% of the bombs still missed their targets, according to the first Pentagon assessments.

This is by far the most accurate bombing campaign ever. What the Air Force and Navy are doing today with smart bombs is the realisation of a dream

Military Analyst Loren Thompson
Early evaluations show that as many as 75% to 80% of bombs and missiles hit their targets - whereas in the 1991 Gulf War and 1999 Kosovo conflict less than half were on target.

Experts say the increase is largely due to the fact that most of the bombs dropped in the six-month Afghanistan campaign were guided towards their targets using lasers or satellites.

About 60% of the bombs dropped on Afghanistan were guided, compared with less than 10% in the Gulf War.

Smart bomb technology

Military officials have warned that the figures could change though as early evaluations often significantly overestimate the percentage of target hits.

Wreckage in a village the Taleban say was bombed
Afghans accused the US of hitting civilians

"This is by far the most accurate bombing campaign ever. What the Air Force and Navy are doing today with smart bombs is the realisation of a dream," said military analyst Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute.

Since the Gulf War there have been significant advances in bomb technology to create so-called smart bombs.

A key development is the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or J-dam - a satellite-guided kit that fits over the tail of a normal bomb to transform it into a smart bomb for precision attacks.

More than 6,600 have been dropped on Afghanistan.

Laser lock-on

Smart bombs have also been aided in Afghanistan by special forces units on the ground.

The troops are able to either pass on precise coordinates for a satellite-guided hit or point a laser at the target for it to lock on to.

About 87% of bombs dropped by the US Navy were smart bombs, a senior Navy official said. Navy planes are unable to carry large loads of unguided bombs as they have be able to land on aircraft carriers.

According to preliminary evaluations from the Navy, about 90% of smart bombs and 75% to 80% of all Navy bombs were on target, he said.

The US Air Force has not yet revealed its bombing accuracy, but spokeswoman Captain Jessica Smith said it had been "very accurate".

Despite the claims of extraordinary accuracy the US bombing campaign did produce a number of high profile errors in which Afghan civilians and US troops were killed.

See also:

12 Feb 02 | South Asia
Afghans count cost of US bombing
03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Afghanistan's civilian deaths mount
06 Feb 02 | South Asia
Afghan leader says US bombed civilians
03 Mar 02 | Americas
Guide to military strength
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