Monster Machines: This Special Ops Missile Prioritises Precision

Despite their generally overwhelming combat prowess, many large US naval vessels remain vulnerable to small, fast-moving speedboats. But with the latest iteration of Raytheon's multi-role precision missile, that won't be a problem for much longer.

The AGM-176 Griffin is a precision munition developed by Raytheon since 2008, designed as mission agnostic, low-collateral-damage weapon for use in the sorts of "irregular warfare operations" that our troops faced in Afghanistan.

These lightweight modular munitions use components from existing weapons platforms such as the FGM-148 Javelin and the AIM-9X Sidewinder. They measure just under 15cm in diameter, 109cm in length, weigh a third of what the Hellfires that UAVs normally carry do, and pack a relatively small 6kg blast-frag warhead. But their real value lies within their flexibility.

The Griffin can be employed as either a short range surface-to-surface/air-to-surface rocket powered missile, or as an air-dropped unpowered, guided bomb. When powered by their solid fuel rocket motor, Griffins can strike from more than 19km away. These munitions seek their targets using either a semi-active laser designator or by GPS. Plus, they can be preprogrammed for air burst, impact, or timed detonation.

Originally developed for the Special Ops MC-130W gunship, the Griffin has since been integrated into a number of vehicles from the Reaper and Predator UAVs to unadulterated C-130 transports (which is far easier and cheaper than sending in a dedicated gunship) to manned attack helicopters like the Kiowa Warrior. So long as the vehicle can mount a 10-tube "Gunslinger" launcher, it can employ the Griffin.

The Navy's latest iteration, the Mark 60 (Block III), recently proved its mettle in a series of live-fire demonstrations late last March. Launched from Cyclone-class patrol ships (part of the Fifth Fleet). Utilising the semi-active laser seeker and a new Multi-Effects Warhead System, these precision missiles successfully intercepted and destroyed a number of static and mobile targets mimicking swarms of fast attack ships. The US Navy has since declared the new Mark 60's fit for field deployment and plans to integrate them into its new fleet of littoral combat ships. [AL - Wiki]