UAE Requests Hellfires, and More
“UAE’s 30-Helicopter Apache Upgrade Program Underway” described the UAE/Dubai’s efforts to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet, while “UAE Ordering Weaponized UH-60M ‘Battlehawk’ Helicopters” looked at their efforts to add firepower punch to their support helicopters. Both sets of helicopters will need weapons, and one of the common weapons will be the AGM-114 Hellfire family of missiles, which have been requested as part of each helicopter package as well as separate DSCA requests.
US Defense Security Cooperation Agency requests can take a notoriously long time to turn into orders, but this article covers a pair of dedicated DSCA requests made over the last 2 years, including the latest $500+ million request with an interesting addendum.
The Hellfire Missile Family
AGM-114 is the basic designation for the Hellfire family of missiles. They are popular weapons for attack helicopters, and have also gained fame when used from UAVs like the MQ-1 Predator. Hellfires can also be used in a coastal defense role, however, and have been test-fired from different land vehicles.
Hellfire missiles are the USA’s preferred aerial anti-armor missile, and are widely deployed with America’s allies. All use semi-active laser guidance as their base mode. They equip its 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 listed as 9,000 meters, or about 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 carved out unique niches as tripod-launched coastal defense assets in Norway and Sweden, and as the guided missile integrated into American UAVs like the MQ-1 Predator family.
The AGM-114K is the basic Hellfire II missile; 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 blast fragmentation 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 US Navy; its warhead is solely blast fragmentation, which is effective against boats, lightly armored vehicles, etc.
The AGM-114N variant uses a thermobaric (fuel-air/ “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.
Two Hellfire versions feature key changes that aren’t related to their warheads. The AGM-114L “Longbow Hellfire” adds a millimeter-wave radar seeker, and is integrated with the mast-mounted radar on AH-64D helicopters. The AGM-114P variant is modified for use from UAVs flying at altitude.
Contracts and Key Events
Aug 4/09: The US DSCA announces [PDF] the UAE’s formal request to buy weapons and communications equipment, plus a wide variety of support services that includes engineering and installation, transportation, engineering change proposals, depot maintenance, communications equipment, repair and return, support equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, contractor technical and logistics support services, and other related support. The estimated cost is about $526 million, if a contract is signed.
Interestingly, the DSCA release adds that: “The proposed sale of the weapons will allow the United Arab Emirates to deploy aircraft to materially assist the U.S. in overseas contingency operations.” Specific items requested include:
- 362 AGM-114N3 HELLFIRE Missiles.
- 15 AAR-57 CMWS for defense against infrared guided missiles.
- 21 AN/APR-39Av4 Radar Warning Receivers.
- 8 AN/APX-118 Identification Friend-or-Foe Transponders, which also help to provide civil airspace compatibility via mid-air collision avoidance etc.
- 19 AN/PRC-117 multi-band Radios
- 15 AN/ASN-128D Doppler Radars for helicopter navigation
- 6 AN/ARC-231 Skyfire Radios
- 15 Data Transfer Modules/Cartridges
Implementation of this sale won’t require any additional contractors or representatives in the UAE. The principal contractors will be:
- Science and Engineering Services, Inc (SES-I) in Columbia, MD
- BAE Systems in Rockville, MD (AAR-57, APX-118, ASN-128D)
- L3 Corporation in Canton, MA
- Boeing Aircraft Corporation in Mesa, AZ (Hellfire JV)
- Lockheed Martin Corporation in Orlando, FL (Hellfire JV)
- Northrop Grumman in Baltimore, MD (APR-39)
- Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY
Aug 8/08: Hellfire sales efforts to the UAE make the news. Lockheed Martin discovered that efforts to sell 460 more Hellfire missiles to the UAE in 2003-2004 had crossed the line, by failing to get proper ITAR (International Trade in Armaments – USA’s weapon export laws) approvals beforehand for certain discussions, and by divulging classified missile-related information to a UAE Air Force officer in response to questions.
The UAE was already a Hellfire customer at that time, so some members of their armed forces were presumably aware of this information already. That does not remove the procedural requirements, however, and weapon export requirements are taken very seriously by all concerned.
Lockheed Martin discovered the mistakes itself, and informed the US Department of State, which manages ITAR. The final settlement involves a $4 million fine, with $1 million of that suspended if Lockheed Martin meets certain criteria for improved internal compliance measures. Reuters | International Herald-Tribune
Oct 4/07: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] the United Arab Emirates’ formal request for
- 900 improved AGM-114L3 Hellfire-II Longbow missiles (with dual radar/laser seeker and a tandem warhead)
- 300 AGM-114M3 Blast Fragmentation Warheads,
- 200 Blast Fragmentation Sleeve Assemblies
- Plus containers, spare and repair parts, test and tool sets, personnel training and equipment, publications, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services, Quality Assurance Team support services, and other related elements of logistics support.
The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $428 million, and the prime contractor is the Lockheed Martin/Boeing joint venture Hellfire Systems of Orlando, FL. Implementation of this sale will require the assignment of a U.S. Government Quality Assurance Team to the United Arab Emirates.
The DSCA release notes only that “United Arab Emirates needs these missiles in order to defend its maritime and land borders.” This would certainly be a full complement of missiles for its AH-64D fleet, but Hellfire can also be mounted in vehicles and fixed land installations.