Supriya Ghosh

AGM 114 Hellfire

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Place of origin  United States
Unit cost  US$110,000
In service  1984–present
Produced  1974–present
AGM-114 Hellfire
Type  Air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile
Manufacturer  Lockheed Martin, Boeing (previous second source), and Northrop Grumman (seeker only for AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire)

The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile (ASM) first developed for anti-armor use, but later models were developed for precision strikes against other target types, and have been used in a number of targeted killings of high-profile individuals. It was originally developed under the name Heliborne, Laser, Fire and Forget Missile, which led to the colloquial name "Hellfire" ultimately becoming the missile's formal name. It has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike ability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms, including the Predator drone. The Hellfire missile is the primary 100-pound (45 kg) class air-to-ground precision weapon for the armed forces of the United States and many other nations.

Contents

Description

The Hellfire can be deployed from rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, waterborne vessels and land-based systems against a variety of targets.

Most variants are laser guided with one, AGM-114L "Longbow Hellfire", being radar guided. Laser guidance can be provided either from the launcher, such as the nose-mounted opto-electronics of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, other airborne target designators or from ground-based observers, the latter two options allowing the launcher to break line of sight with the target and seek cover.

The development of the Hellfire Missile System began in 1974 with the U.S. Army requirement for a "tank-buster", launched from helicopters to defeat armored fighting vehicles. Production of the AGM-114A started in 1982.

The Hellfire II, developed in the early 1990s is a modular missile system with several variants. Hellfire II's semi-active laser variants—AGM-114K high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT), AGM-114KII with external blast fragmentation sleeve, AGM-114M (blast fragmentation), and AGM-114N metal augmented charge (MAC)—achieve pinpoint accuracy by homing in on a reflected laser beam aimed at the target. Predator, Reaper and AH 665 Tiger, UCAVs carry the Hellfire II, but the most common platform is the AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship, which can carry up to 16 of the missiles at once. The AGM-114L, or Longbow Hellfire, is a fire-and-forget weapon: equipped with a millimeter wave (MMW) radar seeker, it requires no further guidance after launch—even being able to lock-on to its target after launch—and can hit its target without the launcher or other friendly unit being in line of sight of the target. It also works in adverse weather and battlefield obscurants, such as smoke and fog which can mask the position of a target or prevent a designating laser from forming a detectable reflection. Each Hellfire weighs 47 kilograms (104 lb), including the 9 kilograms (20 lb) warhead, and has a range of 8,000 metres (26,000 ft). The AGM-114R "Romeo" Hellfire II entered service in late 2012. It uses a semi-active laser homing guidance system and an integrated blast fragmentation sleeve warhead to engage targets that previously needed multiple Hellfire variants. It will replace AGM-114K, M, N, and P variants in U.S. service.

In October 2012, the U.S. ordered 24,000 Hellfire II missiles, for both the U.S. armed forces and foreign customers.

The Joint Common Missile (JCM) was to replace Hellfire II (along with the AGM-65 Maverick) by around 2011. The JCM was developed with a tri-mode seeker and a multi-purpose warhead that would combine the capabilities of the several Hellfire variants. In the budget for FY2006, the U.S. Department of Defense canceled a number of projects that they felt no longer warranted continuation based on their cost effectiveness, including the JCM.

A possible new JCM successor called the Joint Air to Ground Missile (JAGM) is under consideration. Due to budget reductions, JAGM development was separated into increments, with Increment 1 focusing on adding a millimeter wave radar to the Hellfire-R to give it a dual-mode seeker, enabling it to track moving targets in bad weather.

Operation history

Since being fielded, Hellfire missiles have been used in combat in Operation Just Cause in Panama, Operation Desert Storm in Persian Gulf, Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where they have been fired from Apache and Super Cobra attack helicopters, Kiowa scout helicopters, and Predator and Reaper unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs).

The only known operational air-to-air kill with a Hellfire took place on 24 May 2001. A civilian Cessna 152 aircraft entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon, with unknown intentions and refusing to answer or comply with ATC repeated warnings to turn back. An Israeli Air Force AH-64A helicopter fired upon the Cessna, resulting in its complete disintegration.

In 2008, the usage of the AGM-114N variant caused controversy in the United Kingdom when it was reported that these thermobaric munitions were added to the British Army arsenal. Thermobaric weapons have been condemned by human rights groups. The UK Ministry of Defence refers to the AGM-114N as an "enhanced blast weapon".

The AGM-114 has been the munition of choice for airborne targeted killings that have included high-profile figures such as Ahmed Yassin (Hamas leader) in 2004 by the Israeli Air Force, Anwar al-Awlaki (American-born Islamic cleric and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader) in Yemen in 2011, Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan in 2012 by the United States, and Moktar Ali Zubeyr (also known as Ahmad Abdi Godane, leader of al-Shabaab) in Somalia in September 2014. US officials are 99% confident that on 12 November 2015, Jihadi John, real name Mohammed Emwazi, was killed by a drone-fired Hellfire missile, while travelling in a car near Clocktower Square, in Raqqa, Syria, the place where ISIL carry out public executions.

In January 2016 the Wall Street Journal reported that one training missile without a warhead was accidentally shipped to Cuba in 2014 after a training mission in Europe. The dummy missile was later returned. A US official said that this was an inert "dummy" version of the Lockheed system, known as a "Captive Air Training Missile". It is stripped of its warhead, fuse, guidance equipment and motor.

Variants

AGM-114A Basic Hellfire
  • Target: Tanks, armored vehicles.
  • Range: 8,000 m (8,750 yd)
  • Guidance: Semi-active laser homing (SALH).
  • Warhead: 8 kg (18 lb) shaped charge HEAT.
  • Length: 163 cm (64 in)
  • Weight: 45 kg (99 lb)
  • AGM-114B/C Basic Hellfire
  • M120E1 low smoke motor.
  • AGM-114B has electronic SAD (Safe/Arming Device) for safe shipboard use.
  • Unit cost: $25,000
  • AGM-114D/E Basic Hellfire
  • Proposed upgrade of AGM-114B/C with digital autopilot—not built.
  • AGM-114F Interim Hellfire
  • Target: Tanks, armored vehicles.
  • Range: 7,000 m (7,650 yd)
  • Guidance: Semi-active laser homing.
  • Warhead: 9 kg (20 lb) tandem shaped charge HEAT.
  • Length: 180 cm (71 in)
  • Weight: 48.5 kg (107 lb)
  • AGM-114G Interim Hellfire
  • Proposed version of AGM-114F with SAD—not built.
  • AGM-114H Interim Hellfire
  • Proposed upgrade of AGM-114F with digital autopilot—not built.
  • AGM-114J Hellfire II
  • Proposed version of AGM-114F with lighter components, shorter airframe, and increased range—not built.
  • AGM-114K Hellfire II
  • Target: All armored threats
  • Range: 8,000 m (8,749 yd)
  • Guidance:
  • Semi-active laser homing with electro-optical countermeasures hardening
  • Digital autopilot improvements allow target reacquisition after lost laser lock
  • New electronic SAD
  • Warhead: 9 kg (20 lb) tandem shaped charge HEAT
  • Length: 163 cm (64 in)
  • Weight: 45.4 kg (100 lb)
  • Unit cost: $65,000
  • Essentially the proposed AGM-114J w/ SAD
  • AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire
  • Target: All armored threats
  • Range: 8,000 m (8,749 yd)
  • Guidance:
  • Fire and forget millimeter wave radar seeker coupled with inertial guidance
  • Homing capability in adverse weather and the presence of battlefield obscurants
  • Warhead: 9 kg (20 lb) tandem shaped charge high explosive anti-tank (HEAT)
  • Length: 176 cm (69.2 in)
  • Weight: 49 kg (108 lb)
  • AGM-114M Hellfire II
  • Target: Bunkers, light vehicles, urban (soft) targets and caves
  • Range: 8,000 m (8,749 yd)
  • Guidance:
  • Semi-active laser homing
  • Warhead: Blast fragmentation/incendiary
  • Weight: 48.2 kg (106 lb)
  • Length: 163 cm (64 in)
  • AGM-114N Hellfire II
  • Target: Enclosures, ships, urban targets, air defense units
  • Range: 8,000 m (8,749 yd)
  • Guidance:
  • Semi-active laser homing
  • Warhead: Metal augmented charge (MAC) (Thermobaric)
  • Weight: 48 kg (105 lb)
  • Length: 163 cm (64 in)
  • AGM-114P Hellfire II
  • Version of AGM-114K optimized for use from UCAVs flying at high altitude.
  • ATM-114Q Hellfire II
  • Practice version of AGM-114N with inert warhead.
  • AGM-114R Hellfire II (Hellfire Romeo)
  • Target: All Target Types
  • Range: 8,000 m (8,749 yd)
  • Guidance:
  • Semi-active laser homing
  • Warhead: Multi-function warhead
  • Weight: 50 kg (110 lb)
  • Speed: Mach 1.3
  • Unit Cost: $99,600 (All-Up Round, 2015 USD)
  • AGM-114S Hellfire II
  • Practice version of AGM-114K with a spotting charge instead of a warhead.
  • AGM-114T Hellfire II
  • AGM-114R with insensitive munition rocket motor and electromagnetic control actuators.
  • M36 Captive Flight Training Missile

    The M36 is an inert device used for training the handling of the Hellfire. It includes an operational laser seeker.

    Rocket motor

  • Contractor: Alliant Techsystems
  • Designation:
  • M120E3 (Army)
  • M120E4 (Navy)
  • Main features:
  • Qualified minimum smoke propellant
  • Rod and tube grain design
  • Neoprene bondline system
  • Performance:
  • Operating temperature: −43 °C to 63 °C (−45 °F to 145 °F)
  • Storage temperature: −43 °C to 71 °C (−45 °F to 160 °F)
  • Service life: 20+ years (estimated)
  • Technical data:
  • Weight: 14.2 kg (31.3 lb)
  • Length: 59.3 cm (23.35 in)
  • Diameter: 18 cm (7.0 in)
  • Case: 7075-T73 aluminum
  • Insulator: R-181 aramid fiber-filled EPDM
  • Nozzle: Cellulose phenolic
  • Propellant: Minimum smoke cross linked double based (XLDB)
  • Manned helicopters

  • AH-1W SuperCobra
  • AH-1Z Viper
  • AH-64 Apache
  • Agusta A129 Mangusta
  • Eurocopter Tiger
  • HH-60H, MH-60R, MH-60S Seahawk
  • OH-58D Kiowa Warrior
  • RAH-66 Comanche
  • AH-6 Little Bird
  • UH-60 Blackhawk
  • Westland WAH-64 Apache
  • Fixed-wing aircraft

  • Beechcraft Super King Air
  • AC-208 Combat Caravan
  • KC-130J Harvest HAWK
  • Air Tractor AT-802U
  • AC-130W
  • Unmanned aircraft

  • MQ-1B Predator
  • MQ-9 Reaper
  • Predator C
  • MQ-1C Gray Eagle
  • Manned boat

  • Combat Boat 90
  • Super Dvora Mk III-class patrol boat
  • Experimental platforms

    The system has been tested for use on the Humvee and the Improved TOW Vehicle (ITV). Test shots have also been fired from a C-130 Hercules. Sweden and Norway use the Hellfire for coastal defense, and has conducted tests with Hellfire launchers mounted on the Combat Boat 90 coastal assault boat.

    The US Navy is evaluating the missile for use on the littoral combat ship. The missile will be tested on the LCS in 2014.

    Operators

    The following nations use the Hellfire:

    References

    AGM-114 Hellfire Wikipedia


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