Air Weapons: June 17, 2003

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The Department of Defense is developing a new missile to replace both  the 108 pound Hellfire and 400 pound Maverick. The Hellfire was introduced in the early 1980s and current stocks have a shelf life that will expire in 2008. Mavericks, first used in 1972, are also in need of replacement. The new missile would be about the same size and weight as the current Hellfire (about six feet long, seven inches in diameter and 108 pounds). A major improvement in the new missile will be a guidance system that will use laser guidance, radar, and infrared (heat seeking). The pilot would select the primary form of guidance, but the missile could fall back on the other two if need be. The new missiles would cost about $100,000 each. The current Hellfire costs $60-150,000, and the new missile would spend up to 90 percent of its cost on electronics. The Army is spending $360 million over the next two years on development. In order to make the missile usable by low flying helicopters (which use Hellfire) and higher flying warplanes (which use Maverick), the new missile will probably be modular, with larger (200-300 pound) rocket motors for the warplane version and smaller (50 pound) ones for the helicopter version. But common warheads, guidance systems and batteries would make maintenance a lot easier. Some 70,000 missiles would be purchased if all the services adopted the new missile. 

 


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