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November 29, 2007 2:16 PM   Subscribe

What are we bombing them with, exactly? A question for weapons geeks.

As a part of an art project, I need a list of full technical names of some of the common munitions / bombs / rockets / missles that are currently being used in Afghanistan by US forces, and the name of the company that makes them. As I don't know much about the US millitary / industrial complex, I am at a loss as to how to find this information.

What I need is something like this (made up examples): J-DAM bunker busting laser guided bomb, Raytheon Corporation; hollow point DU 5.56mm small arms round, Smith and Wesson. Websites / resources where I can get this detailed level of information would be great, too.

Thanks in advance for any assistance in this matter.
posted by Meatbomb to Technology (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Seems like a job for Janes.
posted by aramaic at 2:18 PM on November 29, 2007

Federation of American Scientists "DOD 101"
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:20 PM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: Hey guys, thanks for such quick responses! This is the right kind of stuff and I will dig around, but there is a tonne of data to sift through in these links to find the exact bits currently popular in Afghanistan.

So, if anyone has specifics, I would just love to hear from you.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:27 PM on November 29, 2007

Weapons (say small arms ammo) may have more than one manufacturer.

In addition, I believe complicated weapons systems like guided bombs may be customizable and assembled by military personnel from parts made by different companies (e.g. Guidance package by one and dumb bomb by another).
posted by Jahaza at 2:28 PM on November 29, 2007

Sadly for you, the specifics are "nearly all of it". Probably about three quarters of the current arsenal is in active use there.

They use what makes sense to use in a particular situation. The reason we have a wide variety of kinds of weapons is because we expect to encounter a lot of different kinds of military needs.

What's mostly not being used is the biggest stuff. They aren't using things like the 25,000 pound FAEs. But they're using most of the missiles listed on the FAS site, and most of the smart bombs.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:30 PM on November 29, 2007

go to a bar near an army base. grunts love to talk about all the minutia of service, and they LOVE it when you have to stop them to ask to explain all of their obscure acronyms. (I am serious- my roomate can't stop talking about the attachments to his M4)
posted by Large Marge at 3:16 PM on November 29, 2007

In addition, I believe complicated weapons systems like guided bombs may be customizable and assembled by military personnel from parts made by different companies (e.g. Guidance package by one and dumb bomb by another).

And some of the parts, like the dumb bombs at the core of JDAMs, might well be made at government facilities, like the McAlester ammunition plant. And some of that activity is almost certainly run by contractors -- at some points in time, anyway, and not at others. And many of the bombs being dropped now might be quite old -- part of what led to the Forrestal disaster was, IIRC, that the bombs they were using in Vietnam might have been made as WW2 was winding down. So there's no easy way of knowing just who built the bombs that we're currently dropping.

And the technical names will mostly be boring things like "GBU-38" or "Bomb, Mark 82."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:17 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Well, for the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams Tank, they'll be using M829A1 APFSDS munitions. The APFSDS-T stands for Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot. The T is for Tank. It is manufactured by Alliant Techsystems Inc. - High Performance Ammunition.

An F-18 might carry such items as the Guided Bomb Unit-12 (GBU-12) Paveway II, whose electronics are contracted out to Texas Instruments (no shit!) or the GBU-24 PAVEWAY low level laser guided bomb hard target penetrator which is made by Raytheon.

Anyways, here's the simplest process for you to get your information.

1. Find something like this photo (you can find similar for just about any jet or bomber the US uses, and any armoured vehicle).
2. Google each individual item for it's full name. 9 times out of 10 the FAS link that Steven C. Den Beste posted will be your first hit.
3. Google the manufacturer using the above information.

posted by furtive at 4:20 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Actually, as a former zipper head, the more I think about it, the more likely the American tanks in Afghanistan are using M830 A1 MPAT (multipurpose/anti-tank) rounds, which do a better job of messing up built up items as buildings. I think those are made by Alliant.
posted by furtive at 4:27 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Our tanks only fire sabot rounds at enemy armor, and the Taliban don't have any. Sabot rounds are useless against things like bunkers, infantry, buildings, hard points in general. Against those they typically fire M830A1 HEAT.

But our forces in Afghanistan aren't using tanks (or IFVs) much. Things are too spread out and the main fighting is in terrain that isn't friendly to heavy vehicles.

This is a light-infantry battle, which is why it's mainly been the 10th Mountain Division doing the fighting there. It's what they're trained for, and for the last few years CENTCOM has been trading in and out brigades from the 10th. The infantry main fights with infantry firearms (M-15), light machine guns (SAW), heavy machine guns (Ma Deuce), and air strikes, plus the odd rocket launcher and grenade launcher. Long distance movement is mainly by helicopter, though they're also using quite a lot of HMMVs.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:32 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Jim Dunnigan's "Strategy Page" web site is a superb source for the kind of close-up analysis you're talking about. Here is the base link to their Afghanistan section. They talk about a lot of things there, but sometimes they mention specific weapons and how they have been used.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:56 PM on November 29, 2007

Lots of pdfs here ( From Abrams Upgrade to XM307.
posted by acro at 5:18 PM on November 29, 2007

heavy machine guns (Ma Deuce)

This is the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. It's been around since the end of World War I and has remained essentially unchanged since then.


M2 "Bradley" Infantry Fighting Vehicle


M2 Compass

That re-used nomenclature for three very different systems always cracked me up.
posted by ZakDaddy at 6:34 PM on November 29, 2007

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