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Assessing bomb damage in Iraq

Flight Lieutenant Jillian May takes measurements at a site in Baghdad with a coalition member.
Flight Lieutenant Jillian May takes measurements at a site in Baghdad with a coalition member.
Assessing the impact point of a 5000-pound bomb that tore through the dome of one of Saddam Hussein’s key regime buildings.
Assessing the impact point of a 5000-pound bomb that tore through the dome of one of Saddam Hussein’s key regime buildings.
Photos by MSGT Carla Kippes, USAF
A bunker with more than 25 compartments was among sites visited by the Combined Weapons Effectiveness Assessment Team, FLTLT Jillian May reports.

IT was the largest weapons assessment program ever undertaken – and four RAAF Airfield Engineering officers were part of it.

Squadron Leaders Sheldon Krahe, Michael Netherton and Paul Harte, and I were members of the Combined Weapons Effectiveness Assessment Team (CWEAT) that travelled throughout Iraq from May to August to inspect points targeted by coalition aircraft during the conflict earlier this year. It was the first time the coalition had joined forces as a CWEAT to assess the accuracy, precision and performance of air component weapons.

Locations visited included Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul, Karbala, Kirkuk and west Iraq, with nearly 400 mean points of impact selected for assessment. A mean point is the precise point where a weapon is intended to strike.

CWEAT’s mission was to learn from the operation so that future coalition forces might operate with increased precision.

Comprised of 77 military and civilian experts in various fields, CWEAT members were drawn from all branches of the US and British armed services; US Department of Defence agencies; as well as the RAAF. Their expertise ranged from targeting, weapons, engineering and intelligence, to support functions such as medical, explosive ordnance, combat camera, linguistics and force protection experts.

The RAAF officers provided guidance on practical applications of targeting and the structural integrity of buildings – expertise that was highly regarded.

SQNLDRs Krahe and Netherton have both completed Masters degrees in Weapons Effects on Structures through the Cranfield University at Shrivenham, UK. They were instrumental in providing guidance on how and why the structures inspected responded to weapon blasts and fragmentation. SQNLDR Harte is a Nuclear Biological Radiological Chemical (NBRC) adviser and graduate of the Advanced NBRC Advisers course in Canada. I undertook study into hardened targets during my undergraduate degree.

A typical day for us would begin when we arrived at the CWEAT working tent at 0700hrs to don Kevlar vests, helmets and webbing that contained an array of measuring and self-protection equipment, grab our Steyrs and wait for Force Protection to arrive. As we were going “outside of the wire” into non-secured territory, we were always escorted and protected by Humvees crewed by American force protection soldiers.

We would then travel by convoy to sites and inspect the selected targets. We would arrive back at base camp in the afternoon and record the information we had obtained. Data collected during site observations would later be analysed to determine whether weapon employment had achieved the desired effects.

After dinner we would prepare for the next day with mission briefs and planning; the day often drawing to a close after 2200 hrs. Days were long and arduous; we worked in up to 50C heat and carried up to 20kg extra in the form of protective equipment.

An example of one site the CWEAT team visited was a bunker buried under layers of soil and concrete, hiding more than 25 compartments.

GPS-guided bombs had hit the structure in two places, while a neighbouring smaller bunker was hit once. The goal was to eliminate the regime’s command and control. Team members acknowledge the bunker design was innovative. From the top, it appeared to hide six to eight gymnasium-sized rooms. But inside, tunnels connected much smaller rooms separated by thick metal doors.

Instead of using dozens of bombs to entirely destroy the bunker, air component officials selected a few precision-guided weapons to achieve specific effects.

One bomb was intended to seal off access to the bunker. A cylindrical hole revealed the bomb’s path to the 2.4m-wide entry, which had lost its heavy concrete roofing. The other was meant to penetrate to the ground floor of the bunker. It did, yet with the bunker’s extreme compartmentalisation, the blast and fragmentation effects were limited.
In coming months, we will conduct briefings for interested parties to educate the ADF on the CWEAT findings.


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