US Army to ramp-up Hellfire production

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BLACKEAGLE

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Gareth Jennings, London - IHS Jane's Missiles & Rockets
28 June 2015


A US Army MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV seen carrying Hellfire missiles. The service is ramping up production of the missile to cope with an increased operational tempo and a surge in international orders. Source: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

The US Army has ordered an increase in production of the AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missile from the current 500 all-up rounds (AURs) per month to 650 AURs per month, the Department of Defense (DoD) disclosed on 25 June.

The USD18 million contract awarded to original equipment manufacturer Lockheed Martin will see an incremental rise to 550 AURs in the first instance, before ramping-up again to 650 AURs. This final rate will be achieved by 30 November 2016.

While the DoD did not specify a reason for the uplift in production, it will likely be fuelled by a high current operational tempo of the army's Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that employ the missile (it is also fielded by US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marine Corps unmanned, rotary-winged, and gunship platforms) coupled with a recent surge in international orders (particularly in the Middle East).

Although still very much the precision-guided missile of choice for 'slow-movers' such as helicopters and UAVs, the Hellfire (an acronym for Heliborne, Laser, Fire and Forget) actually dates back to the early 1970s, when it was developed as an anti-armour/bunker munition.

In all, 15 variants of the missile have been developed and fielded over the years, with the latest being the AGM-114R Hellfire II, which was first revealed in October 2009. According to IHS Jane's Weapons: Air-Launched , the AGM-114R has a multipurpose warhead to defeat the range of targets currently covered by four different Hellfire types (although the US Army has declined to comment on exactly how it has achieved this). The missile is also fitted with an inertial navigation system that allows off-axis launches of up to 180°, with this capability being tailored for mainly UAV applications. Indeed, the missile's utility for UAVs has played a large part in driving the AGM-114R's development.

The first production deliveries of the AGM-114R started in fiscal year 2013, with a subsequent height of burst sensor upgrade understood to have been added from early 2014.

While the US military is the Hellfire's chief user, exports have also been delivered to Australia, Egypt, France, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, South Korea, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

US Army to ramp-up Hellfire production - IHS Jane's 360
 
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Good move. It's one of the most widely used missiles in the world. Until now, I think there is no country except U.S have the manufacturing rights of the Hellfire.
 
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