Air Weapons: Little Griffin Grows

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March 6, 2016: The U.S. Air Force recently ordered another 900 AGM-176 Griffin air-to-ground missiles for use on its UAVs and AC-130 gunships. Entering service in 2010 the Griffin has become popular because weighs only 15 kg (33 pounds, or 20.5 kg/45 pounds with the launch tube) and has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead. It was first used in Afghanistan and because it had GPS and laser guidance and was light and small it proved successful. The unpowered Griffin has a greater range (20 kilometers from aircraft for the B and C versions) than the rocket powered Hellfire because of pop-out wings that allow it to glide after launch. The latest version also has two way communications.

By early 2014 only about 2,000 of the Griffin missiles had been produced. Since entering service in 2010 the Griffin has been pitched as a replacement for Hellfire. But only SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and the CIA have bought many, and in much smaller quantities than Hellfire, which weighs three times as much as Griffin. In early 2014 a much improved Griffin Block III was introduced. This version could hit stationary and moving targets more reliably and accurately. This was largely due to a new guidance system which still used a laser seeker but one with improved electronics. There was also an improved warhead that was more lethal against a wide range of targets. The Block III Griffin cost $90,000 each. The new version made Griffin more useful and popular, thus there were more orders.

 


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