With little of substance to report thanks to the secrecy fetish of the Bush administration, bored mainstream war journalists occasionally “discover” news that departs significantly from both common sense and reality. Such was the case last week with the story of Iraq’s Global Positioning System jammers, leaked by an anonymous intelligence official either profoundly ignorant of the capability of U.S. weaponry or purposely planting disinformation.
The GPS jammer, a cheap piece of Russian electronic junk peddled on the global arms market since 1997 by a firm called Aviaconversia, was said by Fox, Newsday, and others to be a key part of Saddam’s war strategy. The U.S. military’s Joint Direct Attack Munition smart bombs, reliant upon GPS updates for aiming, would end up blasting civilian targets. Displays of the carnage would raise the ire of international observers, increasing pressure on the United States.
So much for the hype. Left less obvious was that Aviaconversia’s jammer sales pitch was aimed at suckers—specifically those in Iraq. Photos of the device furnished by the Air Force’s Air Intelligence Agency are accompanied by the firm’s diagram of how it might be installed around that country.
The Defense Department can’t be quaking over this one. JDAMs were designed to overcome any poor man’s GPS jammers. Each bomb is guided by a GPS and an “inertial navigating system”—or INS—working together. If the GPS is unreliable, the second control still guides it in. With GPS, a JDAM hits within about three meters of its target. With only the inertial navigation, accuracy decreases but not so it matters. In addition, five years ago Boeing developed an anti-jamming package for the JDAM that assured frightening capability. We paid $6 million for it.
In any case, JDAMs are large bombs. Whether they land three or six meters from their target is irrelevant to anything close by. Jammed by a Russki contraption or not, they explode very near where they’re supposed to—always smashing things. Look out below!
In light of the story’s evident folly, it cannot be ruled out that the “news” was intentionally fostered by the Pentagon. It is well known that employment of jamming immediately reveals the location of the jammer, painting a bull’s eye on him. Good news for Uncle Sam’s regime-change plans if one gets used on top of the Iraqi presidential command bunker.