Air Weapons: Smaller Is Better Is Not Enough

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March 23, 2017: The usefulness of guided bombs since the 1990s has led to the development of smaller and smaller ones. For example back in 2014 the 22.7 kg (50 pound) G-Claw (Guided Clean Area Weapon) was announced and largely ignored as being more of the same. The manufacturer quickly realized that the original design had to be improved for the system to find buyers and after two years of effort the improved G-Claw passed tests. Aside from making the original 30 kg design smaller and lighter, the 9.07 kg (20 pound) shaped charge warhead was enhanced with a better fuze (that controls height-of-burst, impact, and delay) and improved capability to deal with personnel, armored vehicles, boats and structures. The guidance system had laser guidance added to the original GPS which enables it to hit moving targets. The G-Claw has pop-out wings which enables it to glide (over a thousand meters) to its target. Finally G-Claw was built to be used in the CLT (Common Launch Tube) developed for use in its AC-130 (and other) gunships in addition to UAVs and light aircraft.

G-Claw comes into an already crowded market. The 20 kg (44 pound) Viper Strike has been in use since 2007. It uses GPS or laser guidance. Viper Strike was originally designed as an anti-tank weapon and the warhead contains only 1.8 kg (four pounds) of explosives. But this made it an excellent weapon for fighting in urban areas, as the bomb is very accurate and less likely to cause injury to nearby civilians. Viper Strike is a 914mm (36 inch) long unpowered glider that is 130mm in diameter (with the wings folded). You have to be within a thousand meters of the target before dropping it but that has proved to be no problem.

Like G-Claw Viper Strike was small enough to be dropped from a wide variety of aircraft. Thus the KC-130J transports were equipped with a modified rear door (the Derringer Door) that enables missiles or guided bombs to be fired and the launcher reloaded without first depressurizing the aircraft and lowering the rear ramp.

Initially, the Griffin missile was used in these launch tubes. Griffin weighs 20.5 kg (45 pounds) and has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead. Griffin has a greater range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire because of pop-out wings that allow it to glide after launch. Griffin uses laser, GPS, and inertial guidance. The Hellfire II missile has been around a lot longer, weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead, and has a range of 8,000 meters.

 

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