June 27, 2015: Strategy Page
The U.S. Air Force recently ordered another few hundred Griffin missiles for use in its AC-130 gunships and UAVs. Entering service in 2010 the AGM-176 Griffin, which weighs 15 KG (33 pounds, or 20.5 kg/45 pounds with the launch tube) and has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead, was first used in Afghanistan. Griffin has a greater range (20 kilometers from aircraft for the B and C versions) than Hellfire because of pop-out wings that allow it to glide after launch. The latest version (Griffin C) uses laser, GPS, inertial guidance and two way communications. The Hellfire II missile has been around a lot longer, weigh 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead, and have a range of 8,000 meters. But for precision work, as gunships and UAVs are often called on to do, smaller warheads and cheaper missiles are preferred.
The U.S. Army also tested the Griffin B missile as a replacement for the more expensive Javelin ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile). In Afghanistan troops at remote outposts use the Javelin as their own artillery, which is especially useful if they are out of range of American 155mm guns and so far from air bases that bombers or helicopter gunships would take a while to arrive. Javelin gets the job done but it is expensive ($75,000 per missile). Griffin is smaller, simpler, and dispenses with the expensive armor-piercing warhead. This is a much cheaper alternative to Javelin. The Griffin B is being tested in a six missile launcher that can be swiveled towards the target and missiles can be quickly fired at nearby threats. Budget reductions put this project on hold although the U.S. Navy also considered using a similar system on ships to take care of Iranian suicide boats.
The air force and marines find Griffin excellent for use from gunships, enabling (in addition to the larger Hellfire) gunships to operate in daytime. Previous to the introduction of these precision missiles the gunships had to be low enough to use 20mm and 40mm autocannon. But that brought them within range of similar weapons on the ground plus heavy machine-guns and portable missiles. With Griffin and Hellfire the gunships can fly high enough to be safe from ground fire.