Smart bombs leave Osama bin Laden no place to hide

Military Technology

The Pentagon says the noose is tightening around Osama bin Laden. It’s believed he may be hiding in a fortified complex of caves near the Pakistani border. If that’s true, a new weapon developed and tested in Southern Nevada may be just what the military needs to get him. Some might call it the cave buster. Investigative reporter George Knapp has the story. Aired on Nov. 28, 2001, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.


The vast expanse of the Nellis range has contributed mightily to military preparedness. Nellis is known far and wide as the training ground for the world’s best fighter pilots.

War games conducted on the range have helped the military perfect the use of assorted armaments.

The stealth fighter was unveiled here for the first time, and the world’s only Predator unit is based in Indian Springs. The Predator is a high-tech unmanned drone already in use in Afghanistan.

And now comes word that something new, something deadly has been developed on the Nellis range.  Something that could be useful in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden is reportedly in hiding.

Osama bin Laden.

Video from a camera situated in the business end of a smart bomb shows how bombs can be guided by remote control to any target. The Army can launch these weapons from the ground, and the Air Force can fire them from planes.

Military sources tell the I-Team, the Air Force version can be dropped from a plane like any other gravity bomb. But with new modifications, it can be guided using both information from global satellites and the video stream that personnel on the plane can watch. The crew can then send signals causing the bomb to slow down, speed up, and zero in.

The existence of so-called smart bombs is nothing new. The website of the Federation of American Scientists provide several details about different models. Basically, modern munitions can be customized depending on the mission. The bombs are built so cameras can be added. A smart bomb expert at the federation said they’ve heard rumors about the type of cave buster that’s been tested at Nellis but nothing firm until now.

Some military experts described the cave fortresses of Afghanistan as virtually impregnable.

Sources say the Nellis cave buster is tailor-made for such a challenge. Make no mistake, other weapons in the U.S. arsenal could be used, too. Giant so-called Daisy Cutters could pound the caves near their entrances. Other smart bombs could hit the target from above, causing it to crumble within.

But the new version, we’re told, will fly right into the cave itself.

Just as pilots can guide it toward targets on the ground or in the air, military sources say the Nellis cave buster can be flown right into the cave and perhaps even maneuvered somewhat once it’s in there.

Video of the Nellis cave buster in action has not been released. Army video showing a smart bomb hitting a tank, while interesting, is probably old technology. But judging from what could be done even a few years ago and from what our sources tell us, the newly customized Nevada smart bomb could be the last thing Osama bin Laden ever sees.

Our sources say the testing at Nellis of this modified technology, which we’re told also may include thermal capabilities, is already complete. And from that point, the cave busters were to be shipped to Afghanistan. We’re not certain, but it’s likely that means they are already there and ready for action.

While Nellis won’t talk about any of this testing, they didn’t deny it. They said they could not comment on it because “it’s classified.”

“As a matter of policy we won’t comment on classified weapons testing at the base.”

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