Target selection and force requirements: by Wg Cdr K.K Badhwar, AVSM, VrC, Indian Airforce.
Target selection and force requirements
(by Wg Cdr K.K Badhwar, AVSM, VrC)

This article is devoted to the weapons aspect and the principles involved in planning a bomber strike, namely:--

(a) Target analysis and selection

(b) Weapon effectiveness

(c) Calculation of the force required to achieve the desired results.

Target selection:-- A careful study of the enemy's economic strength and war potential is a MUST before targets are selected. The main aim being that destruction of the targets should gravely undermine the enemy's capacity to sustain the war. A well understood case of the destruction of the German ball-bearing factories during the second World War is a classic example.

Having broadly selected the targets, the next stage is the picking out target elements within the main target complex. Such target elements should be comparatively more exposed and requiring least effort to destroy them. Knocking out of a vital link in a whole target complex can have crippling effect on the entire target.

An example af a target complex and its elements is provided by enemy aircraft. One element is the factory producing aircraft, another is aircraft in storage, another is aircraft dispersed in blast pens and yet another is aircraft actually taking part in air operations.

An attack can be directed at any one of the elements depending upon the operational requirements, taking into consideration own resources. For immediate effect destruction of enemy aircraft actively engaged in operations will be the most fruitful, but locating them will pose very difficult problems and render them an extremely hard target to destroy.

For effect in the long run, attack on the factory itself will prove beneficial, but strong air defence system may make it an uneconomical target. Attack against aircraft reserves may be recommended, but if they are protected in reinforced concrete covered blast pens, they will form an extremely difficult target to destroy.

Selection of elements out of a chain of targets will have to be done by the planning staff considering factors like time, value of the target from the enemy's point of view, enemy's air defence system protecting such targets and the ease or otherwise with which repairs or replacements can be carried out.

Next point that merits attention is close and careful examination of each target element to determine their relative vulnerability to the degree of damage required for the desired effect. At this stage it becomes important to take into account the type of weapon available and work out the best weapon/fuse combination, in order to make the attack successful and economical.

For accurate and reliable analysis of target structures and their vulnerability, a well developed intelligence system adequately backed by aerial reconnaissance is of utmost importance. It may be noted to the advantage of the planning staff that fairly standardised engineering practices prevail all over the world, more so in the case of countries of comparable economical development. This makes the job of assessment of structures and plant layouts etc., quite simple and accurate. For example, dams, oil refineries, ammunition factories and other industrial complexes whether located in India, Pakistan or China will have vast similarities.

A healthy compromise will have to be struck between importance of a target element and its vulnerability at the time of selecting targets. A certain target element may be vitally important to destroy, but may also be so well defended as to make it an uneconomical one. On the other hand there may be a target element which is highly vulnerable but of comparatively less importance. Depending on what losses are acceptable to your own force you may find the latter target element an economical and lucrative one.

Weapon effectiveness:--Having sorted out the target details to select the most suitable one, the next point one has to consider is the weapon effectiveness to attack a particular target. Broadly speaking effectiveness of weapon is classified for its destructive capability by, namely:--

(a)Blast, (b)Cratering, (c)Earth and under water shock, (d)Fragmentation, (e)Fire, and (f)Penetration.

These effects are functions of most of the missiles and depend largely on design and strength of the case, type of filling, charge/weight ratio and the type of fuse used. The effectiveness of a missile/fuse combination is measured in terms of area over which a specified degree of damage is caused. This is called the Mean Area of Effectiveness. The degree of damage is categorised as "Killed or wounded" in the case of personnel, "Destroyed or damaged" in the case of equipment and stores and "Percentage structural failures" in the case of factories, dams, hangars and buildings etc.

For tactical considerations the best weapon need not necessarily be the one which can produce the desired degree of damage with the lowest missile density over the target. Certain operational factors have to be considered before selecting the weapon/fuse. Chiefly they are:--

(a) Aircraft type and number available

(b) War load of the aircraft

(c) Profile of the attack - high, low or medium

(d) Type of delivery - stick bombing or a salvo

(e) Required accuracy to achieve the desired result

(f) Light/Met conditions over the target

(g) Direction of attack

(h) Skill and physical condition of the aircrew available

(i) Enemy interference enroute and over target

In light of these factors the weapon finally selected will be the one that can be expected to produce optimum effectiveness per aircraft warload against a particular target, thus ensuring the maximum with minimum effort.

Calculation of force requirements:--Having determined the best weapon/fuse combination for attacking a preselected target the next phase of planning is to calculate the required density per unit area to achieve the pre-determined degree of damage. Based on this calculation, number of aircraft to form the force for the mission is the next step. This further stresses the need to carefully decide on the degree of damage to obtain the desired effect. Usually the planned degree of damage varies between 50% and 100%. The upper limit is seldom achieved because of prohibitive cost and effort required. The density requirements per unit area for any missile can be worked out for a pre-determined degree of damage, giving due allowance for the overlap of the kill zone of the missile.

The other aspect and an important one at that, to be taken into account is the expected accuracy of delivery. This factor assumes special importance in the case of pinpoint targets where force required for a given percentage of damage is inversely proportional to the square of the accuracy of weapon delivery. For example, if the bombing error can be reduced from 100 yards to 50 yards i.e. halved, the force required will be one quarter.

Desired Mean Point of Impact(D.M.P.I.):-- It may become necessary, where a large area target or a high degree of accuracy is involved, to work out more than one D.M.P.I. to achieve even distribution of the total war load over the entire target area.

Aircraft requirement:--Having worked out the warload requirements for a given target, it is simple and straight forward matter to calculate the number of aircraft to be dispatched for the mission by dividing the total warload requirement by the warload of an individual aircraft. However, due allowances must always be made for abortive sorties, at the time of finally deciding on the number of aircraft to be allotted for a strike. An allowance must also be made for the decrease in accuracy of weapon delivery due to enemy opposition, aircrew fatigue, met conditions and effectiveness of camouflage of the target.


The following sequence summarises the entire planning effort:--

(a) Selection of target

(b) Analysis of target construction and vulnerability

(c) Time and direction of attack

(d) Missile profile

(e) Selection of weapon/fuse combination

(f) Missile density requirements

(g) Application of accuracy equation

(h) Warload requirements

(i) Number of aircraft required