France is buying U.S.
Hellfire II missiles for its new Tiger helicopter gunships. This is an open
order, which could result in anything from a few hundred, to a few thousand,
missiles being bought. Eight missiles can be carried on a Tiger helicopter.
France, and other European nations, have been impressed with the performance of
Hellfire in combat. In the last seven years, the U.S. has fired over 6,000 Hellfires
in combat, and 21,000 of the Hellfire II have been built since 1990. The
original Hellfire entered service in 1982.
Costing about $68,000 each, the AGM-114
(Hellfire II) missiles use either an armor-piercing or blast/fragmentation (for
use against non-armored targets and bunkers) warhead. The Hellfire II weighs
106 pounds, carries a 20 pound warhead and has a range of 8,000 meters. The
missile is most commonly used by the AH-64 helicopter gunship. An AH-64 can
carry up to sixteen Hellfires at once.
Predator and Reaper UAVs also use the
Hellfire. The missile is popular for use in urban areas, because the small
warhead (only a few pounds of explosives) 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. Hellfire is
the most frequently used missile during the war on terror.