The US Army has awarded an over $660 million contract to Lockheed Martin to produce more AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles.
The AH-64 Apache helicopter, also used by the Indian military, and the MH-60 Black Hawk are armed with these missiles.
“Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control [of] Orlando, Florida was awarded a $663,728,183 modification… contract for Hellfire II missile production,” a Pentagon release said on Friday.
The missiles would be produced at Lockheed Martin facilities in Orlando, Florida, and the process would be completed by September 30, 2024. This will further replenish the US Army’s lethal capabilities.
This Hellfire II missile is an upgrade from its predecessors and is speculated to be the AGM-114R variant. No official designation is mentioned in the contract. Weighing 49 kilograms, it uses a semi-active laser homing with a range of about 8 kilometers. It has a multi-function warhead and a reduced net explosive weight for low collateral damage.
This new lot will be for the US Army and not for the Foreign Military Sales. Its most recent customers including the logistics are the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Australia (directly or indirectly with the purchase of platforms like MQ-9B Reapers and AH-64 gunships), according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Most notably, these missiles were also the part of weapons package for AH-64E Guardian gunships for the Indian Air Force, the latest customer of the platform.
The US Army uses these missiles not only on its Apache gunships but also in its MH-60L DAP (Direct Action Penetrator) Special Forces modified helicopter operated by Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
The DAP is configured as a gunship, with no troop-carrying capacity, equipped with ESSS or ETS stub wings, each capable of carrying configurations of the M230 Chain Gun 30 mm automatic cannon, 19-shot Hydra 70 rocket pod, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles, GAU-19 gun pods, and M134 minigun pods, and M134D miniguns are used as door guns.
The Indian Apaches, half of them Longbow versions, come armed with AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface anti-tank missiles, AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles, and 2.75″ rockets. It can carry a maximum of 16 Hellfire missiles.
The AGM-114 Hellfire missiles have an impressive combat record since their induction in 1984. This missile has been the munition of choice for airborne targeted killings including high-profile terrorists 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, Moktar Ali Zubeyr (also known as Ahmad Abdi Godane, leader of al-Shabaab) in Somalia in 2014, and Mohammed Emwazi (British-born ISIL executioner also known as ‘Jihadi John’) in Syria in 2015.
Even, the Hellfire has been twice used as an air-to-air missile, when an Israeli Air Force AH-64 Apache fired at a non-responding Cessna 152 aircraft that entered into Israeli airspace from Lebanon.
The second operational air-to-air kill with a Hellfire occurred on February 10, 2018, after an Iranian UAV entered Israeli airspace from Syria. An Israeli Air Force AH-64 launched a missile on the UAV, successfully destroying it.
The missile is in active service with over 25 countries and can be launched by various fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. It has been tested even on ground-based launchers and used by the Israeli Navy on Super Dvora Mk III-class patrol boats.