WASHINGTON – In the First Persian Gulf War, the United States unleashed new fighter jets to bombard Iraq.
Now, if there is a Gulf War II, the U.S. military will be using some high-tech weapons in its effort to crush the Iraqi regime.
"Part of this is going to be Buck Rogers, high-tech, satellite imagery. A lot of it is going to be traditional soldiering directly on the ground," said John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org, a non-profit, non-partisan group that focuses on new approaches to emerging security challenges.
While military planners still expect to launch a massive air campaign and employ a powerful ground force, experts like Pike believe an urban battle in Baghdad is going to be a combination of basic soldiering enhanced by satellite images that are depicted as a computerized battlefield.
"Urban ops are always extraordinarily challenging but I think that the combination of improved satellite navigation, digital communications, night vision capabilities, and computerized fire support is going to give American soldiers an advantage in the battle of Baghdad," Pike said.
Shutting down the Iraqi's computer systems is a high priority that could call for a high-tech weapon still in development called the "E bomb" — an "electronics" or microwave bomb.
"One of the big problems you have in Iraq is that you know there's a command post hidden somewhere on the palace grounds, you dont know where. But if you had a microwave bomb that you could set off over the palace complex, it would fry the electronics throughout the area," Pike said.
The attack could come from U.S. computers as well.
"We would initiate a computer network attack though our own computers, send it all the way to the country of origin and try to shut down those computers so we may make them deaf, dumb and blind," said Peter Brookes, a senior fellow on international relations at the Heritage foundation.
Packbots or 40-pound robots first used in Afghanistan and armed with weapons and sensors could be used to scout buildings, lob grenades and fire on the enemy, the experts say.
Military planners say pilotless drones will be pivotal, helping U.S. commandos strike with surgical precision and providing electronic eyes in the sky to see the enemy and plan the U.S. ground troop's next move.
High-tech sensors will likely help locate chemical and biological weapons facilities and protect U.S. and allied forces.
"One of the most important new sensors that we can use is so-called hyperspecteral imagery that can be flown on satellites or on recon aircraft," Pike said. "And this is basically able to detect very minute trace chemicals that might be leaking out of a chemical or biological storage facility."
Special operations forces will use laptops that allow troops on the ground to see photographic displays of the target areas. They can distinguish from friendly and hostile forces then relay the information directly to an AC-130.
"This is in some ways just like an old western gunfight. You see the enemy, he sees you, you decide to act, and who takes action first. The important thing here is to get that information back to the war fighters, to the warriors, so they can act as soon as possible before the other side gets to act," Brookes said.
Planners say an air attack will include the "smart bomb," which is getting smarter, producing maximum destruction while keeping the possibility of collateral damage to a minimum.
"It's able to put targets right on the spot, right down smoke stacks to an even greater extent than they were the last time around," Brookes said.
Weapons working through the pipeline that could come into use range from lob laser-guided grenades to squadrons of unmanned micro-air vehicles deployed like a flock of birds to peek over hilltops or sniff for biochemical agents.
Bottom line, experts say: The U.S. military is much more technologically advanced than nearly 12 years ago, during the Gulf War.