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    The Ground Launched Cruise Missile (BGM-109G Gryphon)

    US's BGM-109G Gryphon Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) showing 4 missile launch tubes. Photo: United States Air Force.
    The Ground Launched Cruise Missile, or GLCM, (BGM-109G Gryphon) is a ground-launched cruise missile developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force in the last decade of the Cold War and destroyed under the INF Treaty. The BGM-109G was developed as a counter to the mobile MRBM and IRBM nuclear missiles (SS-20 Saber) deployed by the Soviet Union in Eastern Bloc European countries.

    Following the US abandonment of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF treaty) that reduced the threat of nuclear wars in Europe. The Pentagon is testing a new prototype conventionally-configured, ground-launched ballistic missile as part of a broader effort to increase medium-range attack options and further fortify deterrence efforts. The missile launch, according to a Pentagon statement, took place earlier December at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Califonia.

    “The test missile exited its static launch stand and terminated in the open ocean after more than 500 kilometers of flight. Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense's development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” a DoD statement said. A missile launch at this range is significant in a number of key respects. First, as specified by the Pentagon statement, the missile firing represents a deliberate effort to bolster U.S. intermediate-range attack weapons, a rapid development that has been underway following the collapse of the U.S.-Russian INF Treaty.

    US claimed that Russia has violated INF Treaty as according to U.S. reports, collapsed earlier in 2019, prompting the U.S. to develop a new sphere of medium-range weapons; the treaty previously restricted medium-range conventional weapons as a way to better reassure both Russia and NATO that attacks on the European continent would not be likely, or even possible in some respects. A medium-range 500-to-600km cruise missile does allow Russia to hold a large number of major European cities at risk of a conventional missile attack. In like fashion, these missiles can hold key Russian targets at risk from Europe.

    A Soviet inspector examines a BGM-109G Tomahawk ground launched cruise missile (GLCM) prior to its destruction. Forty-one GLCMs and their launch canisters and seven transporter-erector-launchers are being disposed of at the base in the first round of reductions mandated by the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
    Northrop Grumman, a key industry participant in the prototype testing, released a statement saying their involvement in the process is intended to help the Pentagon fast-track its development on these weapons. The test demonstrated “Northrop Grumman’s capability for rapid development and launch in support of urgent requests from the Department of Defense,” the company statement said. This most recent tests follows a related test-firing in Aug. of this year wherein the Pentagon shot-off a land-fired variant of the well-known Tomahawk missile. This test firing, which involved an adaptation of the maritime-centric Tomahawk weapon, also fired at intermediate ranges of approximately 500km.

    Block IV Tomahawks are well known for GPS targeting accuracy, long-range precision, a two-way data link and an ISR-oriented "loiter" technology enabling commanders to see video of battle damage or surveil targets in flight. Firing this from land naturally brings new attack options. An ability to fire 500km land-fired cruise missiles brings a number of substantial implications, the first and foremost of which is introducing a counter weapon, or deterrent, to Russia’s well-documented testing of medium-range land-fired missiles in violation of the INF treaty.

    The August test marked the first time the U.S. fired a weapon of this range since stepping back from the INF treaty. Both of these weapons could open up offensive attack nuances, for instance, should there be a need to attack Russian force concentrations massing in or near Eastern Europe. In this scenario, a land-based cruise missile would offer advantageous strike possibilities. These weapons could also enable attacking forces to hit enemy targets from safer stand-off distances.

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