AGM-114 Hellfire

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AGM-114 Hellfire
Lockheed Martin Longbow Hellfire.jpg
A model of a Hellfire's components
TypeAir-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1984–present
Production history
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
Unit costUS$68,000
Produced1974–present
Specifications
Weight100–108lb (45.4–49kg)[1]
Length64 in (163 cm)
Diameter7 in (17.8 cm)
WarheadHigh Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT); 20 lb (9 kg) tandem anti-armor
Metal augmented charge (MAC); 18 lb (8 kg) shaped-charge
Blast Fragmentation

EngineSolid-fuel rocket
Wingspan13 in (33 cm)
Operational
range
546 yd – 5 mi (500 m – 8 km)
SpeedMach 1.3 (950 mph; 425 m/s; 1530 Km/h)
Guidance
system
Semi-active laser homing
millimeter wave radar seeker
Launch
platform
Rotary- and fixed-wing platforms, Unmanned combat air vehicles, tripods, ships, and ground vehicles
 
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AGM-114 Hellfire
Lockheed Martin Longbow Hellfire.jpg
A model of a Hellfire's components
TypeAir-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1984–present
Production history
ManufacturerLockheed Martin
Unit costUS$68,000
Produced1974–present
Specifications
Weight100–108lb (45.4–49kg)[1]
Length64 in (163 cm)
Diameter7 in (17.8 cm)
WarheadHigh Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT); 20 lb (9 kg) tandem anti-armor
Metal augmented charge (MAC); 18 lb (8 kg) shaped-charge
Blast Fragmentation

EngineSolid-fuel rocket
Wingspan13 in (33 cm)
Operational
range
546 yd – 5 mi (500 m – 8 km)
SpeedMach 1.3 (950 mph; 425 m/s; 1530 Km/h)
Guidance
system
Semi-active laser homing
millimeter wave radar seeker
Launch
platform
Rotary- and fixed-wing platforms, Unmanned combat air vehicles, tripods, ships, and ground vehicles

The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile (ASM) developed primarily for anti-armor use. It was originally developed under the name Helicopter Launched, Fire and Forget Missile, which led to the acronym 'Hellfire' that became the missile's formal name.[2] It has multi-mission, multi-target precision-strike capability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. The Hellfire missile is the primary 100 lb-class air-to-ground precision weapon for the armed forces of the United States and many other nations.

Description[edit]

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

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.[3][4] Production of the AGM-114A started in 1982. The Development Test and Evaluation (DT&E) launch phase of the AGM-114B took place in 1984. The DT&E on the AGM-114K was completed in Fiscal Year (FY)93 and FY94. AGM-114M did not require a DT&E because it is the same as the AGM-114K except for the warhead. Most variants are laser guided with one, AGM-114L "Longbow Hellfire", being radar guided.[5][6] 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.[7]

Cockpit video showing the missile being used in Afghanistan against two human targets on a road.

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 and Reaper 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[8]—and can hit its target without the launcher or other friendly unit being in line of sight of the target. It also provides capability in adverse weather and battlefield obscurants (obscurants such as smoke and fog being able to mask the position of the target or to prevent the designating laser from producing a detectable reflection). Each Hellfire weighs 47 kg / 106 pounds, including the 9 kg / 20 pound warhead, and has a range of 8,000 meters. 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.[9] In October 2012, the U.S. ordered 24,000 Hellfire II missiles, for both the U.S. armed forces and foreign customers.[10]

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.

Combat history[edit]

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 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,[11] and the death of Estephan Nicolian, a student pilot.[12]

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.[13] The UK Ministry of Defence refers to the AGM-114N as an "enhanced blast weapon".[13]

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,[14][15] Anwar al-Awlaki (American-born Islamic cleric and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader) in Yemen in 2011,[16] and Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan in 2012 by the United States.

Launch vehicles and systems[edit]

Manned helicopters[edit]

Hellfire loaded onto the rails of a United States Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra at Balad Air Base in Iraq in 2005.

Fixed-wing aircraft[edit]

Unmanned aircraft[edit]

Predator launching a Hellfire missile

Manned boat[edit]

Experimental platforms[edit]

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 Norway has conducted tests with Hellfire launchers on Protector (RWS) remotely-controlled weapon systems mounted on the Stridsbåt 90 coastal assault boat.[20]

The USN is evaluating the missile for use on the Littoral combat ship.[21]

Operators[22][edit]

Variants[edit]

AGM-114A Basic Hellfire
AGM-114B/C Basic Hellfire
AGM-114D/E Basic Hellfire
AGM-114F Interim Hellfire
AGM-114G Interim Hellfire
AGM-114H Interim Hellfire
AGM-114J Hellfire II
AGM-114K Hellfire II
A Hellfire II exposed through transparent casing.
AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire
AGM-114M Hellfire II
AGM-114N Hellfire II
AGM-114P Hellfire II
ATM-114Q Hellfire II
AGM-114R Hellfire II
AGM-114S Hellfire II
AGM-114T Hellfire II

Rocket motor[edit]

Cross section diagram of Hellfire rocket motor, showing the rod and tube grain design.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ AGM-114 Hellfire Variants. GlobalSecurity.org, 25 November 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2009.
  2. ^ "AGM-114 Hellfire missile." Boeing, Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  3. ^ Globalsecurity.org AGM-114 page
  4. ^ Introduction of the Hellfire – A Revolutionary Weapon to defeat the Soviet Armor Threat – Official US Army video at Real Military Flix[unreliable source?]
  5. ^ "Longbow Hellfire". Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "AGM-114L Longbow Missile". Retrieved 27 September 2011.  Unknown parameter |note= ignored (help)
  7. ^ "AGM-114 Hellfire Modular Missile System (HMMS)". Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "AGM-114L Longbow Missile". Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Defenseindustrydaily-Hellfire R
  10. ^ Hella Lotta Hellfires - Strategypage.com, October 19, 2012
  11. ^ (Hebrew)
  12. ^ "Israel shoots down Lebanese civilian plane". CNN. May 2001. 
  13. ^ a b Smith, Michael (22 June 2008). "Army 'vacuum' missile hits Taliban". London: Times Online. Retrieved 22 June 2008. 
  14. ^ Whitaker, Brian (23 March 2004). "Assassination method: surveillance drone and a Hellfire missile". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  15. ^ "Al Jazeera English – The Life And Death Of Shaikh Yasin". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 16 August 2007. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  16. ^ Kasinoff, Laura; Mazzetti, Mark; Cowell, Alan (30 September 2011), "U.S.-Born Qaeda Leader Killed in Yemen", The New York Times 
  17. ^ "US sends Hellfire missiles to Iraq". Belfast Telegraph (Independent News & Media). 27 December 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "New Iraqi Airborne Strike Capability Spotted". Aviation Week & Space Technology. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  19. ^ KC-130J Harvest Hawk takes on new role in Afghanistan - DVIDS
  20. ^ Norwegian article about the experimental deployment of Hellfire missiles on coastal patrol boats (from the official web site of the Norwegian Armed Forces)
  21. ^ Muñoz, Carlo (14 January 2014). "SNA 2014: Navy Won’t Rule Out Army Longbow Hellfire for LCS". news.usni.org. U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  22. ^ "AGM-114 Hellfire and Longbow Hellfire," Jane's Weapon Systems, Vol. 1: Air-Launched, March 19, 2013.
  23. ^ "Heavy U.S. Military Aid to Lebanon Arrives ahead of Elections". Naharnet Newsdesk. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009. 

External links[edit]