March 5, 2024

Precision Guided Munition: The Evolution of Modern Targeting

Precision guided munitions or PGMs have revolutionized modern warfare by allowing targeted strikes with unprecedented accuracy. These “smart weapons” utilize various targeting technologies to guide ordnance directly to desired impact points, minimizing collateral damage. With constant technological improvements, PGMs have become a mainstay of modern militaries worldwide. This article traces the evolution of precision guidance technologies and examines how they have transformed targeting capabilities.

Early Developments
The concept of Precision Guided Munition Market was first investigated during World War II. In 1942, the United States and United Kingdom began developing radio-controlled bombs and guided missiles. However, technology limitations at the time prevented widespread operational use. Satellite-based precision only became possible in the late 1950s with the launch of Sputnik 1, which opened the door for satellite reconnaissance and navigation systems. During the Vietnam War, the United States began using laser-guided bombs against strategic targets. These early PGMs showed promise but were hindered by immature seeker technologies.

Emergence of Laser and INS Guidance
A major breakthrough came with the integration of proportional navigation and semi-active laser seekers onto bombs and missiles. This allowed aircraft or ground spotters to “paint” targets with laser designators, guiding munitions directly to the point of laser illumination. The Vietnam War saw the first widespread use of laser-guided bombs like the Paveway series. Simultaneously, the development of inertial navigation systems (INS) provided autonomous in-flight guidance without needing continuous targeting updates. INS-guided missiles like the AGM-65 Maverick became a mainstay for tactical air forces well into the 2000s.

Global Positioning and Digital Technology
The true revolution arrived with satellite-based global positioning systems (GPS) in the late 1980s and 1990s. By receiving precise timing signals from multiple GPS satellites, munitions could autonomously navigate to pre-programmed target coordinates. This removed dependencies on aircraft or ground laser designators. Digital mapping technology further enhanced navigation accuracy by compensating for terrain variations. GPS/INS integration was a vital enabler for the “stand-off” delivery of precision munitions from outside enemy air defense envelopes. More powerful digital computers also boosted seeker sensitivity and track capabilities.

Capabilities of Modern PGMs
Today’s “smart” munitions leverage sophisticated multisensor fusion combining GPS, INS, imaging infrared seekers, and millimeter wave radars. This provides all-weather, day-and-night precision targeting able to discriminate targets from decoys or clutter. Networked data-links transmit real-time targeting updates from platforms like unmanned aerial vehicles, further enhancing responsiveness and flexibility. Raytheon’s GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb leverages folding wings and GPS/INS to engage multiple targets from a single bomber or fighter rack, vastly multiplying kinetic effects. Hypersonic weapons under development are pushing precision to a new level with capabilities to strike anywhere on the globe within minutes.

Proliferation and Impact on Modern Warfare
PGM technologies have enabled an unprecedented shift in targeting approaches across the modern battlespace. Strikes against high-value but elusive target sets are now commonplace. Network-enabled multi-platform coordination can rapidly deploy precision firepower across vaster operational areas. Additionally, the ability to destroy critical infrastructure like command nodes with surgical accuracy alters entire campaign dynamics. Massive arsenals of GPS/INS guided munitions are now standardized on Western and allied aircraft, naval vessels, and ground launching platforms. With falling unit costs, PGMs have become the munition of choice even for less developed forces, proliferating precision capabilities worldwide.

Overall, smart munitions Precision Guided Munition Market  have revolutionized targeting effectiveness and reshaped military doctrines across air, land, sea and space domains. Precision will likely define future conflict norms with continued technological evolution.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it