Ground Launched Cruise Missile Program
The Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM), or BGM-109G Gryphon, was a ground-launched cruise missile developed by the United States in the last decade of the Cold War. The BGM-109G was designed as a counter to the mobile medium and intermediate range ballistic nuclear missiles deployed by the Soviet Union in Eastern Bloc European countries.
GM-109G missiles were based at six locations throughout Europe; in the United Kingdom at RAF Greenham Common and RAF Molesworth, Florennes AB, Belgium, Woensdrecht AB, Netherlands, Wueschheim AB, Germany, and Comiso AB in Italy. Deployment began in 1982 to the bases with
United States Air Force Ground Launched Cruise Missile Units were:
868th Tactical Missile Training Group -DMAFB, Arizona
38th Tactical Missile Wing - Wueschheim AB Germany
303d Tactical Missile Wing - RAF Molesworth, UK
485th Tactical Missile Wing - Florennes AB, Belgium
486th Tactical Missile Wing - Woensdrecht AB, NL
487th Tactical Missile Wing - Comiso AB, Italy
501st Tactical Missile Wing - RAF Greenham Common UK
Each GLCM base was controlled by a Wing, that consisted of a Tactical Missile Squadron (TMS) which was responsible for operation and deployment of the missiles, and a Tactical Missile Maintenance Squadron (TMMS) which was responsible for the support of the system and a Security Police Squadron which was responsible for security of the missiles both on base and when deployed. Each TMS consisted of several flights, made up of 69 people and 22 vehicles.
The missile was designed to operate in a flight with sixteen missiles. The flight would be normally on base, with the missiles and vehicles secured in the hardened storage area called the GAMA (GLCM Alert and Maintenance Area).
Four transporter erector launchers (TEL) each carried four BGM-109G missiles in their containers and ready for launch. Two launch control centers (LCC), each with two launch officers, were connected to the TELs and interconnected for launch. Each TEL and LCC was towed by a large MAN KAT1 8x8 tractor and was capable of traversing rough terrain. There were 16 support vehicles for the flight commander, normally a captain, 19 maintenance technicians, a medical technician and 44 security personnel.
During periods of increased tension, the flights would be deployed to pre-surveyed, classified locations in the countryside away from the base. The members of the flight would dig in, erect camouflage netting to hide the vehicles and prepare for launch. Flight commanders were tasked to survey and select more than one possible deployment site, with all details closely held, and the commander selected the location preferred when the flight deployed from the base. When deployed, the flight was self-sustaining, and secured with special intrusion detection radar. The launchers (sans warheads) were sent out on a number of simulated scrambles.
In 1981, the GLCM subsystems were being tested for deployment. From February 27 to March 23, 1981, the security subsystem underwent testing at Camp Bullis, Texas. On July 1, 1981, the 868th Tactical Missile Training Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, became operational and served as the source of trained crews to staff the forward deployed wings. A new Security Police organization and new tactics would be needed for GLCM security. At each GLCM base, the missiles and supporting vehicles were stored in huge underground, hardened facilities in the GLCM Alert and Maintenance Area or GAMA.
The GAMA was secured in accordance with AFR 207 series directives combining the requirements of a quick reaction area (QRA) and a Weapons Storage Area (WSA) within the same fenced compound. A major difference between the GAMA and usual WSA security was that one-third of the GAMA security force was made up of host nation
forces. In the United Kingdom the RAF Regiment supplied the host nation contingent while in Italy the elite Carabineari were selected by the Italian government.
The GLCM Dispersal Flight consisted of 16 missiles, 44 security policemen, 19 maintenance personnel, four launch control officers and 22 vehicles. When so ordered the flight would proceed to pre-surveyed, concealed locations to erect and prepare the missiles for firing. During exercises, the flight never went to its actual operational site. Dispersal flight security was based on the AFR 206-2 distributed area defense doctrine and in the field the Security Police assigned to the flight reported to the flight commander who in turn reported to the wing DCO/Operations, transforming the Security Police from support to operational assets. Each GLCM was assigned a Security Police Group comprised of a Security Police Squadron and Missile Security Squadron. The SPS handled day-to-day security and law enforcement for the base while the MSS was
responsible for GAMA and dispersal flight security.
Training of security policemen in GLCM security began in July 1982 with the 30-day-long Security, Survivability, Safety (S3) field deployment at Camp Robinson, Arkansas. In January 1983, the same security force that participated in the S3 deployment reassembled for the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (ITO&E) of the GLCM at Fort Lewis/McChord AFB, Washington. The ITO&E was designed as a 30- day “model mission” and utilized the actual GLCM hardware including launch control centers (LLCs), TELs, and Chevrolet K-10 “Blazers” as interim security vehicles. The IOT&E resulted in some adjustment in tactics, but confirmed the overall security concept of operations. A total of 1,500 security policemen were projected to be needed for GLCM security.
The first GLCM wing, the 501st Tactical Missile Wing (TMW), stood up at RAF Greenham Common, United Kingdom, in July 1982 and was declared operational the following year. Over the next five years additional wings were based at Comiso AB, Italy (487th TMW, June 1983), Florennes AB, Belgium (485th TMW, August 1984), Wueschheim AB, West Germany (38th TMW, April 1985), RAF Molesworth, United Kingdom (303rd TMW, December 1986), and Woensdrecht AB, Netherlands (486th TMW, August 1987).
The growing anti-nuclear weapons movement did not regard these new weapons as a counter to the threat of the Soviet Union's SS-20 intermediate-range missiles targeted at them. Instead they were a “terrifying sign of the Western alliance's determination to be able to fight and win a nuclear war, if necessary.”40 "They don't add to our security, but
[they] increase our insecurity," asserted Bruce Kent, the head of Britain's Campaign for
The Soviets encouraged this sentiment and the NATO countries that had agreed to accept the missiles came under great domestic pressure to reverse course. Of all of the European protesters those at the Greenham Common peace camp,also known as the Greenham Common Ladies, were probably the best known. The ladies and others, who lived outside the gates of Greenham Common for years, were a constant pain in the neck to base officials. Well organized, they had a camp newsletter and even a protest songbook with hits such as “Brazen Hussies,” “There’s A Hole In Your Fence,” “Take the Toys Away From the Boys,” and the ever popular “The Chief of Police,” sung to the tune of the child’s rhyme “The Duke of York.”
The ladies always seemed to know when GLCM units would be leaving the base to practice launch deployments on the Salisbury Plain and tried to lie down in the road infront of the convoy or pelted the vehicles with eggs and paint. As one wing officer said,
"We had to 'protester proof' the vehicles" which involved wiring the vehicles’ gas caps shut to prevent the introduction of “foreign material” and protecting sensitive parts of the
vehicles from the hail of paint bombs.
Sometimes the ladies actions were more aggressive such as an incident where 22 of the protestors stole an Air Force bus and drove to the GAMA security fence which they claimed to have cut through. The Security Police and the British Ministry of Defense Police were the primary opponents of the protestors and anything the ladies could get their hands to help discredit the police became part of their arsenal in that battle. Somehow they obtained Lt Col David P. Mill’s end of year report for the 501st SPG for 1985 and circulated it underlining in his list of the year’s accomplishments the entry “we hit one peace woman with a vehicle” as supposed evidence of the bloodthirstiness of the Security Police. By November 1984, it was claimed that 2,013 arrests had been made at Greenham Common and that it had cost the Newbury Council over ₤9,000 to evict the women from their camps on a daily basis. It was without exaggeration that AFOSP called the GLCM security mission “probably one of the most difficult with which the security police field has ever been challenged.”
Despite initial fears of greater instability, the deployment of GLCM ultimately caused Soviet leaders to enter into negotiations for, and finally signature of, the INF treaty. The recognition by Soviet leaders of the threat posed by the GLCM and Pershing II missiles made them far more inclined to agree to negotiate their own intermediate-range weapons, especially the SS-20, out of service, in exchange for the elimination of the threat posed by the GLCM and the Pershing II.
Unlike SALT II or START I, which set limits to maximum nuclear arsenals, the INF Treaty banned whole categories of intermediate-range tactical nuclear weapons outright. All ground-launched cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with ranges greater than 500 but less than 5500 kilometers were barred to the U.S. and USSR under this treaty. This meant the withdrawal of GLCM and Pershing II on the American side; the Soviets withdrew the SS-4 Sandal, SS-5 Skean, SS-12 Scaleboard, SS-20 Saber, SS-22 Scaleboard B, and SS-23 Spider MRBM/IRBM/LRBM ballistic missiles, in addition to the GLCM's most direct counterpart: the SSC-4 or RK-55 Tomahawks and its supersonic follow-on, the SSC-X-5 cruise missiles.
GLCM was removed from Europe beginning in 1988, and over the next three and a half years all units were transported to Davis Monthan AFB and destroyed or converted into displays by 1991.
Excerpts from "Defenders of the Force: The History of the United States Air Force Security Forces 1947-2006" by James Lee Conrad and Jerry M. Bullock