Wednesday, November 10, 2004

This Slate story demonstrates some of the amazing technology available to U.S. fighting forces.

The (UAV) camera tracked up a wide, empty boulevard bordered by ramshackle warehouses, tin-roof repair shops, and dingy apartment buildings. Four dark spots—presumably insurgents—were splayed against one corner of a large concrete building, with three similar spots on the other corner

"One's lying down," Neumann said. "They're manning a crew-served weapon pointed at the bridge. Tell Fusion we have targets for Basher."

Neumann's VMU unit flew the UAVs and analyzed the video for targets but rarely communicated directly with the shooters. Matching targets to shooters was the specialty of the Fusion Center located on the other side of Fallujah. There a staff pulled together information from Marines on the front lines, UAVs, electronic intercepts, agent reports, and other sources. The Fusion Center compiled target lists, tracked battle damage, prioritized targets, and assigned shooters.

Cpl. Daniels typed in and sent the center a grid location accurate within a few meters. The center sent a one-line response: Basher on the way. Marines doing various chores around the op center stopped what they were doing and clustered behind the screens. A minute went by. The four dark spots moved slightly but stayed in the shadow of the building next to the street. On the screen a ball of black hit the edge of the building, sending black chunks flying out. Another black ball and another and another, enveloping the dark spots crouched along the side of the building.

"Basher," an Air Force AC-130 aircraft, had illuminated the ambushers with its huge infrared spotlight and was pounding them with 105 mm artillery shells, each round packing 50 pounds of high explosives. Gray smoke rose from the scene.

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