Hellfire I/II missiles are the USA’s preferred aerial anti-armor missile, and are widely deployed with America’s allies. They equip America’s helicopter fleets (AH-64, AH-1, OH-58D, MH-60S/R), AH-64 and S-70 helicopters flown by its allies, and even Australia and France’s Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters. Range is officially listed as 9 km/ 5.6 miles.
While Hellfires lack the fast-jet launch capabilities – and correspondingly extended maximum range – of the UK’s MBDA Brimstone missiles, Lockheed Martin’s missile has made big inroads as the world’s high-end helicopter-launched missile. It has also carved out unique niches as tripod-launched coastal defense assets, as the guided missile integrated into American UAVs like the MQ-1 Predator family, and even as a missile option for transport aircraft like the AC-208B Combat Caravan and C-130J/W Hercules.
Lockheed Martin’s Hellfires
Hellfire II missiles comes in several variants. The AGM-114K is the basic Hellfire II missile, with the standard semi-active laser guidance that allows for flexible designation of targets, and flexible missile attack profiles. It uses a shaped-charge HEAT(High Explosive Anti-Tank) warhead that can destroy armored vehicles, or punch into buildings.
The recently-introduced AGM-114K-A variant adds a blast fragmentation sleeve to the HEAT warhead’s anti-tank capability, giving it added versatility against unarmored targets in the open.
The AM-114M version was originally developed for the Navy; its warhead is solely blast fragmentation, which is effective against boats, lightly armored vehicles, etc.
The AGM-114N variant uses a thermobaric (“metal augmented charge”) warhead that can suck the air out of a cave, collapse a building, or produce an astoundingly large blast radius out in the open.
A new AGM-114R “multi-purpose” Hellfire II is headed into production/ conversion. It adds some guidance and navigation improvements, and goes one step further than the K-A variant: it’s intended to work well against all 3 target types: armored vehicles, fortified positions, or soft/open targets. The “Romeo” will become the mainstay of the future Hellfire fleet, used from helicopters and UAVs, until and unless Hellfire itself is supplanted by the JAGM program. Hellfire systems product manager US Army Lt. Col. Mike Brown:
“One of the most noticeable operational enhancements in the AGM-114R missile is that the pilot can now select the [blast type] while on the move and without having to have a pre-set mission load prior to departure… This is a big deal in insurgency warfare, as witnessed in Afghanistan where the Taliban are fighting in the open and simultaneously planning their next attacks in amongst the local populace using fixed structure facilities to screen their presence.”
The AGM-114R2 goes a step farther, and adds a height of burst sensor to make the 3-way warhead even more useful.
Four more Hellfire variants feature key changes that aren’t related to their warhead types.
The AGM-114L “Longbow Hellfire” adds a millimeter-wave radar seeker, which makes it a “fire-and-forget” missile. It’s integrated with the mast-mounted Longbow radar on AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, and AH-1 Cobra family attack helicopters have been tested with different add-ons that would give them similar capabilities. It can also be guided by ship radars, and its fire-and-forget capabilities make it a very useful defense against small boat suicide swarms. The US Navy is taking on Army stocks to use in its Littoral Combat Ship.
The AGM-114P variant is modified for use from UAVs flying at altitude. That requires greater environmental tolerances, as the difference between temperature at launch altitude and near the target can be well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The AGM-114P’s 3-axis inertial measuring unit (IMU) also gives it a 360-degree targeting capability, making it easier to fire from UAVs that lack a helicopter’s swivel-and-point maneuverability. Its unique features will also be present in the new AGM-114R, which will succeed it.
The AGM-114Q model is a training round, with an inert mass that’s the same weight as the warhead. It’s used for live-fire training, where it creates less mess.
The TGM M36E7 corresponds to what the USAF would call a “CATM” – a training missile with the seeker head, but no rocket or warhead.
Contracts and Key Events
Unless otherwise noted, orders are issued by the U.S. Army Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL, to Hellfire Systems, LLC in Orlando, FL – a Lockheed Martin/ Boeing joint venture.
October 11/22: Test The US Air National Guard Air Force Reserve Command Test Center recently tested the new AGM-114 R-4 long-range Hellfire missile, revealing it for the first time. A 174th Attack Wing MQ-9 Block 5 drone test-fired the missile during an exercise, clocking the longest Hellfire shot to date. The R-4 boasts three times the range of its predecessor, the AGM-114 R, which can hit targets from around 7 miles (11 kilometers) under optimal conditions, the developers claim.
September 13/21: Containers Lockheed Martin Missiles won a $101.3 million contract modification for procurement of Hellfire missiles and containers. Hellfire is an air-to-ground, laser guided, subsonic missile with significant anti-tank capacity. It can also be used as an air-to-air weapon against helicopters or slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft. It has also been fielded on surface platforms in the surface-to-surface and surface-to-air roles. Work will take place in Florida. Estimated completion date is September 30, 2024.
June 22/21: Engineering Services Lockheed Martin won a $9.4 million contract modification for HELLFIRE and Joint-Air-to-Ground Missile engineering services. The AGM-114 Hellfire II is an air-to-ground missile developed primarily for the anti-armor role. It is a combat-proven tactical missile system using multiple launch platforms based on air, sea and ground. Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) is an Army led program managed by PEO Missiles and Space, Joint Attack Munitions Systems (JAMS) Project Office. JAGM is a multi-sensor air-to-ground missile that is the successor to the combat proven HELLFIRE Romeo and HELLFIRE Longbow missiles. Work will take place in Florida. Estimated completion date is June 16, 2023.
May 4/21: Production Lockheed Martin won a $663.7 million contract modification for Hellfire II missile production. The Hellfire II air-to-ground missile system (AGMS) provides heavy anti-armor capability for attack helicopters. It is a 100lb class air-to-ground precision weapon delivering multi-target capability and precision strike lethality. The Hellfire II missile is in service with the armed forces of the US and 16 other nations. Work will take place in Orlando, Florida. Estimated completion date is September 30, 2024.
February 2/21: Electromechanical Control Actuation System Lockheed Martin won a $15.9 million contract modification to develop a second source for the qualification and facilitization of the Electromechanical Control Actuation System for the Hellfire missile. Hellfire is an air-to-ground, laser guided, subsonic missile with significant anti-tank capacity. It can also be used as an air-to-air weapon against helicopters or slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft. Work will take place in Orlando, Florida. Estimated completion date is August 28, 2021.
January 20/20: Engineering Services Lockheed Martin won a $9.8 million contract modification for engineering services in support of the Hellfire Missile and Joint Air-to-Ground Missile. The Hellfire is an air-to-ground, laser guided, subsonic missile with significant anti-tank capacity. It can also be used as an air-to-air weapon against helicopters or slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft. Hellfire can be used as an air-to-air or an air-to-ground missile. The Air-to-Ground (AGM)-114 provides precision striking power against tanks, structures, bunkers and helicopters. The Hellfire missile is capable of defeating any known tank in the world today. It can be guided to the target either from inside the aircraft or by lasers outside the aircraft. Work will take place in Orlando, Florida. Estimated completion date is January 15, 2021.
February 25/19: Engineering services The US Army Contracting Command awarded Longbow LLC a $10.5 million contract modification for Laser and Longbow Hellfire engineering services. Hellfire missiles are the USA’s preferred aerial anti-armor missile, and are widely deployed with America’s allies. The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile. It is a combat proven tactical missile system using multiple launch platforms. The Hellfire can be fired from rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, waterborne vessels and land-based systems against a variety of targets. Longbow LLC produces equipment for the aerospace and defense industry including electrical components for helicopters and other vehicles. Work under the modification will take place in Orlando, Florida and is scheduled to be completed by the end of February next year.
November 13/18: Engineering services The US Army Contracting Command is awarding a contract modification to Longbow LLC. The contract, worth $8.9 million, provides for laser and longbow Hellfire engineering services. Hellfire missiles are the USA’s preferred aerial anti-armor missile, and are widely deployed with America’s allies. It is a combat proven tactical missile system using multiple launch platforms. The Hellfire is a 100lb class air-to-ground precision weapon delivering multi-target capability and precision strike lethality. The AGM-114L “Longbow Hellfire” adds a millimeter-wave radar seeker, which makes it a “fire-and-forget” missile. This missile’s distinctive name is a reference to the AH-64D Apache Longbow, whose sensor mast atop its rotor hub has the ability to detect, identify, and engage targets using the Longbow Hellfire. Work will be performed at the company’s facilities in Orlando and Ocala and is estimated to be completed by November 7, 2019.
October 3/18: FMS to the Netherlands The Netherlands will receive several air-to-ground missiles as part of a US Foreign Military Sale. Lockheed Martin is being awarded with a $637.8 million contract that sees for the procurement of a variety of Hellfire II missiles. Hellfire II missiles come in several variants. They include the M variant which is designed for the Navy, the N variant equipped with a thermobaric warhead, the multi-purpose R variant, and the P variant designed to be launched from high flying UAVs. Work will be performed at Lockheed’s Orlando facility and is scheduled for completion by September 2021. This contract also includes a FMS to the government of Japan.
August 3/18: Hellfire for Kuwait The government of Kuwait could soon see a significant boost to its missile inventory. The US State Department is determined to approve a foreign military sale of 300 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles for an estimated cost of $30.4 million. The potential sale would also include missile containers, M261 launchers and spare parts. The Hellfire is the USA’s preferred aerial anti-armor missile. Hellfire II missiles comes in several variants. The AGM-114R is a “multi-purpose” missile that comes with guidance and navigation improvements. The 114R is designed to work well against all 3 target types: armored vehicles, fortified positions, or soft/open targets. The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin.
October 30/17: Orbital ATK announced hitting the milestone of delivering its 1,000th tactical motor for the AGM-114 Hellfire missile to military customers. The motor is currently in service with the US Armed Forces as well as 16 other allied nations, and is utilized on dozens of platforms ranging from helicopters, aircraft, unmanned aircraft, land combat vehicles and combat ships. The company is also working on upgrading the Hellfire rocket motor to include insensitive munitions, called the IM Hellfire, which will be produced exclusively at the Orbital’s new Large Tactical Motor Manufacturing Facility in Rocket Center, West Virginia. Also in development is a rocket pulse motors capable of operating at extremely cold temperatures that provide increased range and flexibility for both tactical and defense applications.
August 28/17: Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $547.9 million US Army contract for the production and delivery of Hellfire II air-to-ground attack missiles. As many as 7,359 Hellfire II missiles, in a number of air-to-ground variants, and including their containers will be produced by September 20, 2020 at the firm’s facility in Orlando, Florida. The Hellfire is the primary air-to-ground short-range precision guided missile for US helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and is in service with many other nations. It also comes in ground and ship-launched models.
March 19/17: The British government has been cleared by the US State department to move forward with the purchase of AGM-114R1/R2 Hellfire II Semi-Active Laser (SAL) missiles. Estimated to value around $150 million, the foreign military sales contract will involve the transfer of 1,000 rounds from existing US military stocks, as well as the provision of logistics support services and other related program support. London previously ordered 500 AGM-114s back in 2015.
May 16/16: The UAE has been cleared to purchase 4,000 AGM-114 R/K Hellfire missiles after the sale was cleared by the US State Department. Congress was notified of the potential $476 million deal on May 11 which will be delivered over the next three years in increments of 1,000 to 1,500 missiles by Lockheed Martin. According to the DSCA, “the proposed sale will improve the UAE’s capability to meet current and future threats and provide greater security for its critical infrastructure.”
May 4/16: France has requested to amend a previously-approved Foreign Military Sale of AGM-114K1A Hellfire missiles and increase the number ordered from 112 to 200. The estimated cost of the amendment is expected to be around $25 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) says the missiles “will directly support French forces actively engaged in operations in Mali and Northern Africa.”
February 16/16: A month after it was reported to have accidentally been sent to Cuba, the US has regained possession of its Hellfire air-to-ground missile. The inert munition had been used in NATO training exercises in Spain during 2014, however, shipping errors had it mistakenly sent from Paris to Havana instead of Miami. Further comment on specific defense trade licensing cases by the US State Department is restricted by federal law, but a team from Lockheed Martin were dispatched to retrieve the missile and take it home.
January 11/16: A dummy US Hellfire missile has been accidentally sent to Cuba, sparking concerns that its technology may be leaked to US adversaries. The missile had initially been on loan to Spain and was being used for NATO training exercises. It then seemed to go on a bit of a wander through Europe, first to Germany and then through France to Charles de Gaulle airport. Instead of being shipped to Florida, it was loaded onto an Air France flight to Havana. Despite a recent thaw in relations between Washington and its long time Caribbean adversary, demands to have the Hellfire returned have so far gone unanswered. An investigation is under way as to whether the re-routing was a deliberate act of espionage or just incompetence. Needless to say, someone is getting fired for that blunder.
The Iraqi government’s fight against the Islamic State gets another boost as the DCSA approved an $800 million sale of 5,000 Hellfire missiles. The sale also includes ten Captive Air Training Missiles as well as related equipment and support. A spokesperson for the US-led coalition stated that the territory held by IS in Iraq has shrunk by 40% from its maximum expansion in 2015. Let’s hope these Hellfires get delivered to the right people this time.
December 09/15: Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $318.3 million modification to a foreign military sales contract. The deal is to provide Hellfire II missile hardware/component production for South Korea, Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Indonesia, with completion expected by October 2018. Fiscal 2015 other procurement (Army) funds in the amount of $56,590,878 were obligated at the time of the award. The contract comes as US allies are rushing to increase stockpiles of cruise missiles and other military hardware which has had manufacturers struggling to fill orders.
November 12/15: The United Kingdom has requested 500 AGM-114R Hellfire II Semi-Active Laser missiles from US stocks, with the State Department approving the sale. The potential deal – estimated to value $80 million – also covers logistics support and spares. The UK already operates the Hellfire I, with Italy and France also recently requesting Hellfire missiles, for use with Reaper UAVs and Tiger attack helicopters respectively.
November 6/15: France has also requested 200 AGM-114R2 Hellfire II missiles from the US, with the State Department also approving the request. The potential deal – now referred to Congress – is estimated to value $30 million, and the missiles are set to equip French forces operating in sub-Saharan Africa. The French Army’s Tiger attack helicopters will deploy the new missiles, with France also now developing a replacement missile for its Hellfires, known as the FAST-M.
June 5/15: Lebanon has requested 1,000 AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles from the US, with this potential deal estimated to value $146 million. The missile is in service with many countries worldwide, with a href=”https://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/iraq-wants-hellfires-lots-and-lots-of-them-026078/”>Iraq ordering 5,000 of the missiles in August last year.
Aug 14/14: The Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee have deferred action on a Pentagon request to shift $7.1 million from other accounts into the Hellfire missile program, as part of a larger reprogramming request. Note that deferral is not denial, it just means that other things need to happen first.
The FY 2014 budget had expected to buy 550 missiles for $58.5 million, but use in the field leaves the Pentagon $7.1 million short in order to keep stocks stable. Sources: Defense News, “Defense Panels Hold Up $7M Funding Shift for Hellfire Missiles – for Now”.
April 9/14: Hellfire for LCS. The US Navy confirms that they have picked the AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow radar-guided missile as the SUW Package’s initial missile. Hellfire Longbow won’t have any more range than Raytheon’s Griffin (~3.5 nmi), but the radar seeker allows the ship’s radar to perform targeting for salvos of multiple fire-and-forget missiles against incoming boat swarms. In contrast, the Griffin’s laser designation must target one boat at a time, from a position that’s almost certain to have a more restricted field of view.
Lockheed Martin says that the missile has had 3 successful test firings (q.v. Jan 14/14), and there are plans to test-fire the missile from LCS itself in 2014, using a new vertical launcher. Unfortunately for Lockheed Martin, there’s no immediate prospect of orders from the Navy, as its AGM-114L missiles would be drawn from existing US Army stocks. Those have shelf life limitations anyway, which is one reason the Army intends to begin buying JAGM laser/radar guided Hellfire derivatives around FY 2017. On the the other hand, US Navy deployment opens a market niche around the world, so future orders are possible. Sources: DoD Buzz, “Navy Adds Hellfire Missiles to LCS” | USNI News, “Navy Axes Griffin Missile In Favor of Longbow Hellfire for LCS”.
Feb 10/14: FY 2014. Hellfire Systems, LLC in Orlando, FL receives a $157.4 million firm-fixed-price contract modification, exercising an option for FY 2014 Hellfire II missile production requirements that include foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Indonesia.
All funds are committed immediately, using FY 2012 – 2014 budgets. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/16. US Army Contracting Command ? Redstone Arsenal (Missile) at Redstone, AL manages the contract, and acts an an FMS agent for other countries (W31P4Q-11-C-2042, PO 0068).
FY 2014 order: USA, Jordan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia
Jan 14/14: Naval test. The US Army and Navy conduct multiple naval test firings of Hellfire Longbow millimeter-wave radar guided missiles, targeting high-speed boat targets at ranges of up to 6 km. The tests were conducted from a launcher aboard a 65-foot surface craft, using progressively more complex scenarios.
The swarming boat threat is subject to much discussion in an era where the boats themselves can be explosive-packed weapons on suicide missions, with the ability to do serious damage to high-end ships. Ship-based solutions are beginning to proliferate, even if purchases and installation remain slow. Lockheed Martin has experience with Hellfire as a helicopter-mounted solution to the problem, so the extension is natural, and the Longbow variant’s fire-and-forget operations is especially well suited to swarm defense. Lockheed Martin also leads the Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship team.
On the other hand, Longbow Hellfire doesn’t have the range that LCS ships really need. They’re also a bit late to the maritime game. Raytheon’s shorter-range and cheaper AGM-176 Griffin is already in naval use, and the Javelin/Centurion missile & launcher combination for small boats can tie into Raytheon’s land force customer base. Lockheed Martin would also be feeling a bit of pressure from MBDA, who are running demonstrations that tout their dual-mode laser/radar guided Brimstone missile. Sources: Lockheed Martin, “Longbow Missiles Demonstrate Littoral Attack Capability”.
Sept 26/13: A $248.7 million firm-fixed price contract modification for 3,318 Hellfire II missiles in containers (various models) for the US Army, Navy and Air Force; as well as exports to Saudi Arabia, Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands and Australia.
Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, and purchases will include funding will be from US FY 2011 through 2013 budgets. This was a non-competitive acquisition with one bid solicited and one received (W31P4Q-11-C-0242, PO 0049).
Aug 20/13: UAE. An $8.2 million firm-fixed-price, no-option contract modification with a cumulative maximum value of $886.2 million for Hellfire II foreign military sales (FMS) offset requirement to the United Arab Emirates. It’s part of the USA’s contract, because it’s also the umbrella for other buyers who want to take advantage of the USA’s volume discount. The benefits flow both ways, ans an order of this size will help keep prices down for the US military.
Work will be performed in Orlando, FL. Only 1 bid was solicited, as is common in these situations (W31P4Q-11-C-0242, PO 0043).
Dec 20/12: A $114.1 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy various models of Hellfire II tactical missiles in containers. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL with an estimated completion date of Feb 28/14. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W31P4Q-11-C-0242). The overall contract has now reached $730.5 million.
Oct 4/12: Finalized. A $403.5 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy various models of Hellfire II missiles. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W31P4Q-11-C-0242).
Looks like they’ve finalized the underlying contract.
Jan 5/12: A $53.9 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy more Hellfire II missiles, type and numbers unspecified. Inquiries reveal that the underlying contract, announced on Aug 1/11, still hasn’t been finalized.
Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of Dec 31/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Redstone Arsenal, AL (W31P4Q-11-C-0242).
Aug 1/11: A $159 million firm-fixed-price, unfinalized contract begins procurement of 3,097 AGM-114N/P/Q/R Hellfire II missiles in containers; 16 Hellfire II guidance test articles to verify production lot performance; and engineering, equipment, and production services. The new multi-year contract’s final terms and number of missiles remain under negotiation, but this contract allows production to continue while those details are hammered out. FBO.gov sets the contract’s limits as:
“HELLFIRE II FY11-14 production contract requirements for a maximum total quantity of 24,000 HELLFIRE II missiles in containaers, conversion of a maximum total quantity of 1,800 HELLFIRE II missiles from one model to another HELLFIRE II model, and production of a maximum total quantity of 5,832 HELLFIRE II spare parts, consisting of 40 different national stock numbers (varying quantities).”
Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/14. Since the missiles have only 1 owning manufacturer, 1 sole-source bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W31P4Q-11-C-0242).
New multi-year contract
* Lockheed Martin – Hellfire II Missile
* Global Security – AGM-114 Hellfire Modular Missile System (HMMS)
* Designation Systems – Boeing/Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire
* DID – JAGM: Joint Common Missile Program. JAGM will replace AGM-114 Hellfire, *GM-71 TOW, and AGM-65 Maverick missile variants on Army and Navy helicopters, UAVs, and fighter aircraft… if the program is not cancelled first.