The U.S. Air Force is having 450 of its Maverick air-to-ground missiles converted to use laser guidance. The air force is also buying new Mavericks with laser guidance. Until two years ago, the air force never used the laser guided Maverick missile. But they had discovered it was the ideal version of the Maverick for combat in Iraq.
Previously, only the Navy (and Marine Corps) bought the laser guided Maverick. The air force used the TV and infrared guided versions. But in actual practice, the laser guided model was the most accurate, and this proved decisive in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the target is sometimes a moving truck (full of bad guys trying to escape), or a roomful of terrorists in a densely populated neighborhood. In both cases, you want to hit a small target, and not kill nearby civilians. The laser guided Maverick proved to be the best weapon. In 2007, the air force found it was using a lot more Maverick missiles, and had to borrow laser guided versions from the navy.
The demand for the laser guided Maverick had everything to do with the rules of engagement and the desire to minimize civilian casualties. On the ground this pays off, although foreign media use any civilian casualty (or imagined casualties, if they cannot find any real ones) as an indictment of trigger happy American troops. No good deed goes unpunished.
In Iraq, enemy snipers have learned that being in a building that a pilot can get a shot at is not a good idea. Pilots have also used Maverick missiles to take out snipers, or rooms where enemy troops are located. The 400-600 pound Mavericks comes with a 125 pound or 300 pound warhead. This allows the Maverick to be used when friendly troops are nearby, the only alternative being the 500 pound smart bomb.
The Maverick, which has a max range of 25 kilometers, has been in use for nearly four decades. Recent attempts to replace it with a more modern missile failed because, well, Maverick still gets the job done. The air force is trying to get production resumed on the laser guided Maverick.