Member of The Month JANUARY 2010
- Aug 14, 2009
The Ministry of Defence has released the first cockpit footage of a new precision missile which can kill a Taliban fighter with such a small explosion that nearby civilians are unharmed.
The Dual Mode Brimstone guided missile is shown blasting a gunman who has dug himself a firing position or 'murder hole' in the base of a thick mud walled compound in the heart of a village in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.
Whereas the 1,000lb bombs commonly used in such air strikes would have flattened the settlement and could have killed dozens of people, the Brimstone's warhead kills the enemy gunman while barely damaging the rest of the compound, and the surrounding streets are untouched.
The pilot is able to programme the missile's fuse from the cockpit before firing it, selecting the level of destructive power by adjusting the way the warhead detonates.
The Royal Air Force is anxious to distance itself from claims that coalition air strikes are killing thousands of Afghan civilians each year, and to demonstrate the care taken by its pilots to prevent so-called 'collateral damage.'
While Britain's Harrier jets and Apache helicopters have dropped hundreds and bombs and missiles on Taliban targets in recent years, the MOD has made a point of not releasing cockpit footage or photographs of air strikes in recent years to avoid handing propaganda opportunities to the enemy.
The footage, recorded by the on-board targeting system of a Harrier GR9 strike jet, shows an incident in June this year when a Dual Mode Brimstone was fired in combat for the first time.
British troops clearing a series of compounds in Helmand Province came under fire from a single enemy gunman hiding in a 'murder hole' beneath a compound wall.
Rather than risk casualties by trying to assault his well-protected firing position, they called on British aircraft overhead.
An airborne surveillance aircraft used its sensors to pin-point the gunman's exact location, and the Harrier pilot unleashed the Brimstone from thousands of feet overhead, recording the moment of impact - exactly on the target.
While the blast coats the compound in dust, it causes minimal damage, and the cluster of civilian homes is unaffected.
Civilian casualties from air strikes have become a major political problem for the U.S-led coalition in Afghanistan, and are widely exploited by the Taliban to undermine support for the allies among ordinary Afghans - as well as causing divisions between the coalition and the Afghan government.
Earlier this month a major air strike near the northern town of Kunduz killed as many as 100 people on the ground, including 40 civilians.
RAF insiders insist the issue is widely misrepresented, claiming most Afghan civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban's roadside bombs and rockets, while explosions of any kind are often wrongly blamed on 'air strikes.'
Group Captain Colin Basnett, commander of the RAF's Tornado Force serving in Afghanistan, said: 'The Dual Mode Seeker Brimstone is an incredibly precise weapon and its introduction into service has significantly increased the capability of the Tornado Force to strike moving or static targets, whilst also reducing the risk of civilian casualties and unwanted damage to property.'
Watch the video here