February 27, 2015: Strategy Page
In late 2014 Britain certified (configured and tested) their Paveway IV smart bomb to operate from their new Typhoon fighter bombers. The Paveway IV was developed in Britain and is not used by the U.S. Air Force or Navy. Introduced in 2008, over a thousand 500 pound (228 kg) Paveway IVs have been dropped in combat so far. These were dropped by the older Tornado fighter-bomber. Saudi Arabia, the one export customer for Paveway IV has used them on their Typhoons recently against targets in Syria.
In the U.S. JDAM and other GPS-only weapons are much more popular, although some Paveway I, II, III type bombs are still used. The original Paveway laser guided smart bombs were developed in the United States but a British manufacturer obtained a license to develop a variant (Paveway IV) that met standards the Royal Air Force wanted (like GPS and inertial guidance in addition to the original laser guidance). The JDAM is a later and cheaper guided bomb design that uses GPS rather than laser. Paveway was developed in the 1960s, when there were no GPS satellites but lasers were new and it was now possible to use laser guidance in a bomb. GPS did not become available until two decades after the first Paveway entered service.
The U.S. and Britain jointly develop more upgrades for the Paveway IV. These include a low explosive model (to limit collateral damage), another model has a penetrator cap (to hit underground bunkers) which is a novel feature for a 228 kg bomb. There are also improvements in the American anti-jamming technology as well as the laser seeker technology.
The Paveway system is actually a kit that is attached to an unguided bomb. The 50.5 kg (111 pound) Paveway kit contains guidance electronics, computers, and battery powered winglets. But to work the carrying aircraft must have a fire control system that enables the pilot to get the GPS data (received from troops on the ground) into the Paveway IV equipped bomb.
Once attached to a one ton, half ton, or quarter ton bomb, the Paveway IV can achieve precise (within a meter or less) accuracy using a laser designator. Now there is also GPS guidance to land within ten meters (31 feet) of the aiming point. The U.S. firm that manufactures the Paveway bombs, Raytheon, has produced over 250,000 kits so far, of which about twenty percent have been used in combat with great success.
Earlier versions of Paveway did not have GPS. Most just only had laser guidance. Britain has since added GPS to Paveway IV. While more accurate, laser guidance requires that someone on the ground or in the air be shining a laser on the target. The Paveway then homes in on the reflected laser light (of a particular frequency). GPS guided bombs can hit the target under bad weather conditions and only have to worry about jamming of the GPS satellite signal.