Hydra-70 is a family of unguided rockets offering a variety of warhead configurations, from smoke and illumination rounds, to flechettes (hundreds of anti-personnel darts), submunition carriers, and unitary warheads up to 317 pounds. These versatile and relatively inexpensive rockets can be fired from a variety of aircraft, from attack helicopters to jet fighters to light helicopters. Hydra-70s have seen use in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are arguably the world’s most widely used helicopter-launched weapon system. Magellan’s 70mm CRV-7 rockets and Thales’ 68mm SNEB system are its main Western competitors, while countries using Russian equipment have a variety of choices that begin with the 57mm S-5 family, extending through the 80mm S-8 family, and continuing up to the 266mm S-25.
While 70mm Hydra rockets are low cost weapons, and easy to carry in numbers, they’re not very accurate. This makes them problematic choices for urban warfare if limitations exist on the use of force, and sharply limits their value to platforms like UAVs. The US Army intended to scale back production of the rocket system in 2003, but Congress, led by Senator Leahy [D-VT], reversed the decision with a $900 million contract. Production continues to this day, even as technology developments promise to make Hydra rockets a multi-headed battlefield threat once again.