Precision guided weapons
(1) (bb) “Precision guided weapons” mean weapons that can be directed against a target using either external guidance or a guidance system of their own.
- A precision guided weapon is a weapon (as defined in Rule 1 (ff)) “that uses a seeker to detect electromagnetic energy reflected from a target or reference point and, through processing, provides guidance commands to a control system that guides the weapon to the target.” However, other systems may be used to enhance the precision of the weapon. In common usage, the term would encompass any weapon (and its incorporated munitions) that employs a guidance system to strike a target accurately.
- Precision is sometimes wrongly characterized as a weapon’s capacity to strike the precise point at which it is aimed (known as the “aimpoint”). In fact, this ability is correctly labelled “accuracy”. It is measured in terms of circular error probable, the radius of a circle within which one-half of weapons launched will fall. Precision is a broader concept. It encompasses the ability to locate and identify a target, strike it accurately in a timely fashion, and determine whether desired effects have been achieved or restrike is needed. Robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance can be as determinative of precision as the weapon employed. Thus, when considering precision, it is more useful to think in terms of weapon systems, for the accuracy of a weapon in a particular attack may depend as much on the capabilities of the platform from which it is launched as on the technical parameters of the weapon itself.
- Multiple forms of guidance are used in precision guided weapons (see Rule 1 (z) regarding the definition of missiles). The guidance may be internal (that is, contained within the precision guided weapon), or external (as in cases where the aircraft dropping the precision guided weapon provides guidance to target). Examples of guidance include laser guidance, radar guidance, infrared and infrared imaging guidance, electro-optical (TV) guidance, satellite data guidance, and inertial navigation guidance.
- Modern weapons have different degrees of autonomy. Some weapons rely on a signal (radar, laser or other) from an aircraft or some other source operated by a human being in order to home in on the target. Other weapons rely on satellite-based GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) signals. Still other weapons have inbuilt capabilities that guide them to a target in the air or on the surface without external input. When an air-delivered guided weapon is independent of any signal from the launching aircraft, it has a “fire-and-forget” capability.
- Numerous other terms are commonly used to refer to precision guided weapons. They include “smart” weapons, brilliant weapons, and PGMs (“precision guided munitions”).
- DoD Dictionary of Military Terms, 12 April 2001, at pages 423–424.
Categories: Section A: Definitions