Air Weapons: Iraq Calls For More Hellfire

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February 26, 2014: Iraq has ordered another 500 AGM-114K/R Hellfire II missiles. The K model is for use against armored vehicles while the R model has a warhead that is effective against personnel and structures, as well as lightly armored vehicles. Iraq has some helicopters, trainers and recon aircraft that can be equipped with Hellfire and a growing number of these helicopters and airplanes have been so equipped.

For the latest shipment Iraq will pay about $160,000 per missile. This includes training, spare parts and technical assistance installing Hellfire in some types of Iraqi aircraft. There may also be some Hellfire conversions, just in case. The U.S. Army has converting thousands of its older AGM-114K Hellfire missiles to the new AGM-114R standard. The AGM-114R entered service in 2010 and was found excellent against armored vehicles (except tanks). Iraq apparently wants some K models in case someone comes at them with tanks, but most of this order will probably be R models.

Hellfires have been the most frequently used American missile for over a decade. The AGM-114R (Hellfire II) missiles use either an armor-piercing or blast/fragmentation (for use against non-armored targets and bunkers) warhead. The ones fired from UAVs usually have the blast (R model) warhead. The Hellfire II weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead, and has a range of 8,000 meters. Hellfire has been popular because it is easy to use, reliable and very effective. For what it can do, Hellfire is very cost-effective.

Over the last few years Hellfire II has acquired several new features. For example, it has an electronics package (a circuit board and internal sensors) that monitors and reports the status of missile components. This Captive Carry Health Monitoring package constantly tracks the status of the missile and the environment (heat, vibration, and humidity). Maintenance personnel can jack into the missile and get a report at any time, making it easier to keep missiles fit for action. Older versions of the missile required this information to be logged manually and much more effort to insure that the missile was ready for combat.

In addition to UAVs, the Hellfire is most commonly used by the AH-64 helicopter gunship and, at least in Iraq, on one or two engine commercial turboprop aircraft used for reconnaissance or transports. An AH-64 can carry up to sixteen Hellfires at once. As Iraq discovered, it’s not difficult to arm most helicopters with Hellfire. Predator, Reaper, and Sky Warrior UAVs are the best known users of Hellfire. The missile is popular for use in urban areas because the small warhead contains only about a kilogram (2 .2 pounds) of explosives and this reduces civilian casualties. The missile is accurate enough to be sent through a window (OK, you have to be really good, and lucky, to do this) because of its laser guidance. The AGM-114R has also been test fired from a ground mount (a simple tripod device).

 

 


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