Bomb damage assessment

Bomb damage assessment

Bomb damage assessment, often referred to as BDA, is the practice of assessing damage inflicted on a target by an air campaign. It is part of the larger discipline of combat assessment (CA), also referred to as battle damage assessment (BA). Assessment is performed using many techniques including footage from in-weapon cameras, from gun cameras, forces on the ground near the target, and follow-up visits to the target.

History of bomb damage assessment

Originally, BDA was required due to the disconnected nature of aerial bombardment during World War I. It became necessary to send ground forces to an area to determine whether the damage was effective, or to overfly the target again. Either situation was difficult to accomplish safely. Starting with this conflict, specialized equipment has been used specifically for BDA type missions. Originally these were aircraft which were converted fighters or bombers, which were given a new "RQ" designation. In later conflicts, satellites became available, as well as high altitude surveillance planes such as the Lockheed U-2 and the Lockheed SR-71.

In more recent conflicts, special operations forces (SOF) have taken part in BDA, both through physical presence, and conducting overflies with equipment such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV. []

Modern times

Modern BDA, however, is more complex than determining the status of the target. More esoteric questions are asked of the BDA, such as

* Was the mission successful?
* Was the correct target hit?
* Did the munition function correctly?
* Were the desired results achieved?
* Does the target, or other nearby target, merit additional strikes?
* Was the attack effective enough to merit a continued campaign?

Objectives of bomb damage analysis

The objectives of bomb damage analysis can be broken into three main categories.

Physical Damage Assessment

The estimate of the quantitative extent of physical damage (through munitions blast, fragmentation, and/or fire damage effects) to a target resulting from the application of military force. This assessment is based upon observed or interpreted damage. Collateral and additional damage is also assessed in this process.

Functional Damage Assessment

The estimates of the effect of military force to degrade/destroy the functional or operational capability of the target to perform its intended mission. It includes the level of success of the force applied relative to the operational objective established against the target. This assessment is inferred based upon all source information and includes an estimation of the time required for recuperation or replacement of the target.

Target Systems Assessment

The broad assessment of the overall impact and effectiveness of the full spectrum of military force applied against the operation of an enemy target system or total combat effectiveness (including significant subdivisions of the system) relative to the operational objectives established.

The future of BDA

While the 1991 Gulf War is widely regarded as having the most effective and consistent BDA of any conflict to date, after the end of hostilities, the Battle Damage Assessment Working Group (BDAWG) was formed at the behest of MTIC, the "Military Targeting Intelligence Committee." Largely, this group sought to create a standard lexicon of terminology for describing BDA, and to develop an outlook for the future of BDA.

Possible future techniques involve using lasers or particle beams in a manner similar to side scan sonar to map, in three dimensions, the condition of a target. Boeing has developed (as of 2002) a system whereby a BDA "sensor" is towed a third of a kilometer behind the munition. This system is supposed to be capable of near real-time BDA by directly observing the munition's interaction with the target.


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