While watching the latest air strike videos coming out of Syria and Iraq I noticed this unusual targeting FLIR imagery of a compound being obliterated by six nearly simultaneous precision strikes, each hitting a defined area of the complex. Targeting tags appear on the exact spots that are struck.
This is something different. Such a capability is a far cry from using one or two laser guided bomb of much higher yield, or multiple smaller guided bombs over the course of a much longer attack on a similar target. So what exactly is going on here?
Be advised that this video shows an air strike on a militant compound, we cannot confirm if there were casualties or not.
Although we do not know if the targeting platform is the same as the “shooter” platform, the upside down triangular tags with lines through them appear to be targeting coordinates derived by the sensor platform. For laser guidance, aircraft are limited to targeting one single point at a time.
With this in mind, and seeing as the there is no sign that the targeting system is lasing the target at all, these symbols look like individual coordinates most likely derived by “squirting” the targeting aircraft’s laser onto strategic parts of the structure, then taking those coordinates and loading them into GPS guided weapons. The coordinates could have also been derived via using Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and are then visually overlayed on the targeting system’s imagery, although I cannot confirm if such a high level of sensor integration is widespread on America’s combat aircraft today.
Targeting pods on American fighter and bomber aircraft and sensor balls on unmanned aircraft have become amazingly capable over the last decade and a half. Is the ability to “tag” coordinates via laser ranging (or possibly SAR) and loading them into GPS weapons a new capability? No, but the amount of closely positioned points of impact and the speed and synchronization of the attack is remarkable if the building was indeed targeted and attacked “on the fly.”
If nothing else, this video is a reminder of just how far we have come when it comes to employing tailored precision guided weaponry in complex ways onto complex targets. All of which increases the effectiveness of an attack, while also hopeflly limiting the loss of innocent lives nearby.
I would guess that this is video originated from either an unmanned system which did the targeting, with the munitions (probably 500lb JDAMs) coming from another aircraft entirely or the entire thing is via a flight of F-15Es Strike Eagles. The B-1B is also a possibility.
Maybe one of our readers would give us a better explanation of what we are seeing in this video.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.