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Hellfire Missile Version Ready for Prime Time

Sep 3, 2009

By Lindsay M. Jenson, Hellfire Product Office

The Joint Attack Munition Systems Project Office's Hellfire Product Office team has conducted its final two test shots for the Extended Range/Multipurpose unmanned aircraft systems variant of the Hellfire missile.

The test shots, on June 16 at China Lake, Calif., proved the software design is now ready for the ERMP live firings schedule in the fall and Limited User Test in spring 2010.

After more then two decades providing war fighters with a world class air to ground missile, the Hellfire team continues to provide the aviation community with more lethal capabilities to meet current operational needs.

The ERMP product, managed by the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office, will fill the Army aviation capabilities gap following Comanche cancellation and the Army force restructuring. It is aimed to field a medium altitude, persistent Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance UAS system to complement existing UAS systems within the Army. One of the key requirements of the ERMP program is to provide direct attack capability, and the Hellfire missile is now ready to meet that requirement.

The ERMP will have multiple on-board weapons and be capable of loitering for 36 hours at altitudes up to 25,000 feet. Army commanders require UAS that execute tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition in direct support of their ground maneuver mission.

Army UAS provide tactical commanders immediate responsiveness or eyes on target without lengthy processing, exploitation and dissemination processes associated with joint ISR assets. The software improvements in the AGM 114 UAS variant will increase the engagement envelops and provide more lethality to the war fighter and more flexibility to the UAS operators when prosecuting targets. This capability will also be extended to all joint forces by 2012.

"The hard work and dedication by the exceptional men and women from Redstone paid off today with the 22nd in a row successful Hellfire UAS Variant shot," Charles Bates, Hellfire Product Office IPT lead, said. "I feel proud just to be a part of this team. The ability of the Hellfire UAV Variant missile to engage targets behind the launching aircraft provides the war fighter with an unprecedented capability that will most certainly result in higher lethality and survivability."

The test shots with the new software marked a milestone not only for the ERMP program which will be the first combat platform to use it, but it is also historical for the Hellfire missile program as it will be used to transition to the Army enterprise and joint forces with the fielding of the AGM 114R in October 2012.

Hellfire is an air-to-ground missile that provides joint attack helicopters and UAS in Iraq and Afghanistan today with point-target precision strike capability to defeat heavy, advanced armor, individual hard point and non-traditional targets.

The recent test shot was the 22nd successful 114 UAV Variant shots off joint rotary and UAS platforms. This was a lock-on-after-launch shot with a 135 degree offset. This AGM 114 UAS Variant shot hit dead on the laser spot, demonstrating the ability of the Hellfire AGM 114 UAS Variant missile to engage and kill targets that are behind the aircraft at launch.

Completion of this test paces the way for the first Hellfire live firings from the Army's ERMP platform in October at China Lake. The joint AGM-114 UAS Variant missile will support all joint rotary and UAS platforms.

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