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Gillespie, Paul G. - Precision Guided Munitions: Constructing a Bomb More Potent than the A-bomb (ebook)

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Precision Guided Munitions: Constructing a Bomb More Potent than the A-bomb

by Paul G. Gillespie

Lehigh University - June 2002

This study examines the history of a class of weapons known collectively as precision guided munitions (PGMs). Arising from historical antecedents in the First and Second World Wars, the specific technologies that made precision guidance a reality in the late 1960s were, nevertheless, the unique product of concerted actions taken within the U.S. military, the federal government, and civilian industry. Precision weapons did not emerge as a natural consequence of technological change, but were consciously constructed in response to the purposes, ethics, and values of American society. Certainly, the creation of important enabling technologies, notably lasers and semiconductor integrated circuits, played a decisive role in the development of these advanced weapons.

However, the emergence of guided weapons is inexplicable without also considering America's evolving defence policy, the military doctrine that translated that policy into specific weapon systems, and twentieth-century wartime demand, which stimulated research and development by providing added urgency, requirements, and resources.

Entering America's arsenal at the height of cold war tensions, PGMs provided an appealing alternative to the largely impotent nuclear bombs and missiles that had become the centrepiece of U.S. military strategy. Post-Vietnam military operations highlighted a marked shift in emphasis away from mass destruction in favour of inflicting precise, controlled damage. Reliance upon this technological innovation has produced a remarkable three-tiered revolutionary transformation in munitions technology, armed conflict, and U.S. national security policy.

293 pages – in English