Lockheed Martin Corp. has been awarded a modification to contract for procurement of combat-proven Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. The contract modification, announced Wednesday by the Department of Defense, is worth more than $702.9 million. Estimated completion date of the contract is Sept. 30, 2023.
The Hellfire family includes three warhead variations to defeat a broad target set – the high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) missile, or AGM-114K, which defeats all known and projected armored threats; the AGM-114M blast fragmentation missile, which defeats “soft” targets such as boats, buildings, bunkers and light-armored vehicles; and the metal augmented charge (MAC) missile, or AGM-114N, which defeats enclosures, caves and enemy personnel housed therein – all with minimal collateral damage.
The Hellfire air-to-ground missile has been launched from a wide array of platforms, including the U.S. Army’s Apache (AH-64A and AH-64D), the U.S. Marine Corps’ Cobra (AH- 1W and AH-1Z), and the UK’s Apache (AH MK1) attack helicopters; the U.S. Navy’s Seahawk armed reconnaissance helicopter (SH-70B); the U.S. Army’s Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter (OH-58D); and the U.S. Air Force’s Predator unmanned aerial vehicle.
Armyrecognition.com noted that the Hellfire missile has been the ammunition of choice for airborne targeted killings that have included high-profile terrorist figures such as Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin in 2004 by the Israeli Air Force; Anwar al-Awlaki, an 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.
The website also mentioned that the missile has occasionally seen use as an air-to-air missile. The first operational air-to-air kill with a Hellfire took place on 24 May 2001, after 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 Apache helicopter fired on the Cessna, resulting in its complete destruction. The second operational air-to-air kill with a Hellfire occurred on 10 February 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.