How Smart Bombs Work

Smart bombs were designed to overcome the inaccuracies associated with the older, freefalling bombs of the past. The newest smart bombs rely on a Global Positioning Sytem to guide them to their intended target.

Because ordinary bombs were basically designed to freefall and "hit or miss" their intended targets, they were often unsuccessful. It is extremely difficult for a bomb to hit its target when dropped from such extreme heights out of a moving plane, especially if that target is a concentrated area. Smart bombs are designed to overcome this problem, and though they might seem high-tech and state-of-the-art, they are really not that complicated.

Smart bombs have explosive material and fuses just like regular bombs. They also have, however, an onboard computer system, a sensor system, and movable flight fins. These elements are what turn an ordinary bomb into a smart bomb.

Smart bombs are dropped from planes just like regular bombs, but because they have fins, they are able to follow a flight path. The computer system uses the sensors to track its intended target, and this is how the bomb is controlled.

The computer system also sends a message to the mechanism that controls the fins. The fins then adjust according to the flight pattern. They work very similar to the way an airplane's flaps work. They tilt in which ever direction is needed to turn the bomb. The fins continue to adjust as the bomb hurtles towards its intended target.

If you've watched any television shows or movies, you've probably seen bombs with ticking devices, or timers, bombs with fuses that can be lit, and bombs that are detonated by remote control. In each of these, something has to cause or signal the bomb to explode. Timers are set to detonate at a certain time period. Fuses are lit and detonate fairly quickly, and remote control bombs are mainly set off by someone triggering the remote control device.

Smart bombs are basically designed to explode using one of two methods. They are either programmed to explode when they hit the intended target, and they use an impact fuse. They can also be programmed to explode when their sensors indicate that the bomb is about to hit the target, and these bombs use proximity fuses.

With the modern era of the GPS, Global Positioning System, smart bombs have become smarter, have better accuracy, and a better success rate. Smart bombs were generally controlled by either a laser or a video camera before the introduction of the GPS receiver.

A human operator had to help guide the bomb by marking the intended target with a laser light that the laser guided bomb would then seek out and destroy. With a video camera guiding the bomb, an operator must locate the bomb through the camera and then send a signal to the bomb that it should "lock on" that target.

Though these smart bombs were no doubt a huge improvement over the freefalling bombs of the past, they still had problems. One of the most significant problems is these bombs have to be able to see their target. If there is anything obstructing their view, such as clouds, fog, heavy rain, or other obstacles, then they might not locate the target and land somewhere else.

Bombs controlled by a GPS do not have this problem because they communicate with a GPS satellite. This bomb uses its inertial guidance system to control its path. All the aircraft has to do is identify the intended targets using the GPS receiver and pass that information to the bomb's computer.

Smart bombs have indeed come a long way from bombs that were used in previous wars. Technology has enabled the military to hit their intended targets with greater accuracy and, thus, greater success.

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