Artillery: Cheap, Portable And Highly Accurate


February 22, 2012: The U.S. Army is testing 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. Griffin B is the heavier ground version of the earlier air launched Griffin A. Griffin B weighs 20.5 kg (45 pounds) and has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead. Griffin has greater range (5,600 meters) because of pop-out wings that allow it to glide a bit after launch. Griffin uses laser, GPS, and inertial guidance. 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.

Javelin, introduced in 2002, weighs 22.3 kg (49 pounds, with disposable launch tube and battery/seeker coolant unit) and is fired from a 6.4 kg (14 pound) CLU (command launch unit). The CLU contains a 4x day sight and a 9x heat sensing night sight. The missile has a tandem (two warheads to blast through reactive armor) that can hit a target straight on or from the top. This latter capability enables the Javelin to destroy any existing tank (including the U.S. M1) with its 8.2 kg (18 pound) warhead. Maximum range is 2500 meters. Best of all, the seeker on the missile is "fire and forget." That is, once the operator gets the target in the CLU crosshairs and fires the missile the computer and seeker in the missile warhead memorizes the target and homes in on it. The infantry love this because it allows them to take cover once the missile is fired.

But the troops have plenty of other heat sensing devices with which to find targets for their Griffins, which are basically small guided rockets. Just the kind of portable artillery the infantry favor. The army field tests will determine if the Griffin B performs effectively under battlefield conditions. In the meantime, the troops still have Javelin, which works just fine.