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Air-to-Ground Missiles

An air-to-ground missile (AGM) is a weapon fired from an aircraft against a ground-based target. An air-to-ground missile has onboard propulsion, with guidance provided either internally or externally. Also known as air-to-surface missiles, air-to-ground missiles are used against a wide variety of targets, including vehicles, armor, fuel storage facilities, structures, and in a naval setting, against surface ships.

Four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles tucked under the wing of a KC-130J Hercules aircraft, on the runway at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, 24 March 2011
Four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles tucked under the wing of a KC-130J Hercules aircraft, on the runway at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, 24 March 2011.

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Operational Factors of Air-to-Ground Missiles

From top to bottom, an AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile), an AGM-45 Shrike Anti-Radiation Missile, and an AGM-65 Maverick television-guided missile, February 1988
From top to bottom, an AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile), an AGM-45 Shrike Anti-Radiation Missile, and an AGM-65 Maverick television-guided missile, February 1988.

Air-to-ground missiles can be described based on their range, type of powerplant, guidance system, or intended target. The most common propulsion systems used are jet engines and rocket motors, yielding long- and short-range missiles. Guidance systems on air-to-ground missiles are based on optical, infrared, laser, and GPS-based technology. Each offers advantages, with the intended target determining which guidance system is optimal. Some air-to-ground missiles are designed specifically to attack certain targets. For instance, the AGM-84 Harpoon is used as an anti-ship missile. However, most air-to-ground missiles can be launched at a variety of targets.

The major operational advantage of an air-to-ground missile is the ability to fire at a target from a safe distance. This standoff distance keeps men and materiel safe from enemy counterattack. Most air-to-ground missiles are also "fire and forget" weapons, allowing operators to engage multiple targets quickly.

The U.S. military currently deploys air-to-ground missiles on virtually all aircraft. The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps each operates a variety of fighters, helicopters, and drones, most of which can be equipped to carry mission-specific air-to-ground missiles.

The best-known air-to-ground missile in the U.S. inventory is the AGM-65 Maverick, which has been in service since late in the Vietnam War and used by aircraft in the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The other well-known AGM is the AGM-114 Hellfire, the first such missile to be deployed on a UAV, first on the MQ-1 Predator and more recently, on the MQ-9 Reaper.

Chart of Air-to-Ground Missiles

In this chart of U.S. military air-to-ground missiles, click on the photo link to go to the page of photos and information for the missile.

MissileDescriptionPhoto Link
AGM-12 AGM-12 Bullpup AGM-12 Bullpup
AGM-22 AGM-22  
AGM-28 AGM-28 Hound Dog  
AGM-45 AGM-45 Shrike AGM-45 Shrike
AGM-62 AGM-62 Walleye  
AGM-65 AGM-65 Maverick AGM-65 Maverick
AGM-69 AGM-69 SRAM  
AGM-78 AGM-78 Standard ARM  
AGM-84 AGM-84 Harpoon  
AGM-86 AGM-86 CALCM  
AGM-87 AGM-87 Focus  
AGM-88 AGM-88 HARM AGM-114 Hellfire
AGM-114 AGM-114 Hellfire AGM-114 Hellfire
AGM-119 AGM-119 Penguin  
AGM-122 AGM-122 Sidearm  
AGM-123 AGM-123 Skipper  
AGM-129 AGM-129 ACM  
AGM-130 AGM-130  
AGM-142 AGM-142 Have Nap  
AGM-154 AGM-154 JSOW  

Recommended Books about Military Air-to-Ground Missiles

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