Allied coalition forces have flown thousands of missions over Iraq and Kuwait since hostilities began Jan. 17. Here, in simplified form, is a breakdown of the basic kinds of armaments used in the air, the kinds of targets they are designed to destroy and their limitations and vulnerabilities.
Guns: --Used against soft targets like vehicles and trucks. --AH-64 Apache helicopter carries a 25-millimeter rapid-fire gun, primarily effective against vehicles and armored personnel carriers that do not have thick armor. --AV-8B Marine Harrier carries 20-millimeter cannon for use against soft targets. --A-10 Thunderbolt, a dedicated tank-killer, fires 30-millimeter cannon in its nose. Its extremely powerful shells are about the size of milk bottles. LIMITATIONS: --Attacker is drawn into range of air defense systems, especially the A-10, which flies low and slowly. ALTITUDE: --Has to fly in as low as 500 feet in order to see and hit target. --The helicopter can come in even lower and can use ground terrain to conceal itself. Rockets: --Primarily effective against massed soft targets: vehicles, troops, cluster or frame buildings, radar installations. --Most commonly used are high explosive 70-millimeter rockets, fired in salvos of 20-30. --Carried by A-10 or AH-64 aircraft. LIMITATIONS: --Subject to enemy ground fire and not effective on hard targets ALTITUDE: --Can come in as low as 2,000 feet; helicopter would come in even lower. Smart Bombs: --Used agains "point" targets, such as individual buildings requiring precision bombing. --Most commonly used are 500, 1,000- or 2,000-lb. bombs that are electronically guided directly to the target. --Aircraft are medium-range fighter-bombers: the F-115E Eagle, A-6 Intruder, and F-111A Aardvark. LIMITATIONS: --Subject to enemy ground fire, anti-aircraft missile or cannon. ALTITUDE: --Depending on target and cloud cover, they can range from 2,000-5,000 feet. Free-Fall Bombs: --Used against any large concentration of troops, equipment, vehicles, airfield installations to maximize damage over a large area. --B-52 Stratofortress can deliver 50,000 pounds of bombs to maximize destruction. This strategy is called "carpet bombing". --Medium-range fighter-bombers such as the A-6, A-10, A-18 and F-16 can drop "cluster bombs"-- clusters of little bomblets that are packed into a larger bomb, similar to shotgun pellets. LIMITATIONS: --The B-52 is a strategic asset that requires protective escort ad high enough altitude to avoid hostile ground fire to assure it is not lost. --The lower-flying fighter-bombers are subject to avoid hostile ground fire; cluster bombs are not effective against hardened sites. ALTITUDE: --B-52: 25,000 to 40,000 feet. --Fighter-bombers: 1,000-3,000 feet. A-10 Thunderbolt: EXAMPLE: GAU-8A Avenger 30-millimeter, 7-barrel revolving cannon. Armor-piercing incendiary shell Length: 11.4 inches Weight: 2.05 pounds Aluminum case Steel windscreen Depleted uranium penetrator F-14 Tomcat: Example: TOW, ar-tosurface anti-tank misile F/A-18 Hornet: Example: AGM-65B Maverick, Air-to-surface precision-guided missile B-52 Stratofortress: Example: Conventional 500-lb. bomb Source: Jane's All the Worlds Aircraft, Jane's Weapons Systems, military analyst Gregory Grant.