To engage a surface target from the air with pinpoint accuracy or take out an enemy on the first floor of a building, leaving the rest of the structure intact, is a capability Navy has never had - until now.
The AGM-114N Hellfire air-to-ground missile was accepted into the fleet in August and rounds out the devastating weapons complement of the MH-60R Seahawk.
Commanding Officer of 725 Squadron, where the 'Romeo' helicopter currently flies, Commander Dave Frost, said the Hellfire was an extremely capable weapons system which greatly supported the combat mission of his aircraft.
“The Hellfire system enables the Romeo to pack more of a punch in the surface warfare domain,” he said.
“The ability to deliver the weapon in a number of modes either as a single aircraft or a section greatly supports the Navy’s mission of fighting and winning at sea, and based on the success of firings in the United States, it is clear that Australian Navy maintainers and aircrew are rapidly becoming highly proficient with the system.
“We have moved forward at a great pace across both technical and operational fronts, training and firing the weapon in the US.”
“This is due to the great work across Defence and numerous other supporting organisations.”
Commander Frost said he was excited about the versatility and interoperability of the missile system.
“The Hellfire is another bow in our surface warfare quiver and greatly complements the Mag 58 and 50 Cal capabilities of the Romeo,” he said.
“With supporting communication systems and state of the art sensors that enable crosstalk with Australian and US units, the Romeo can be called upon to deliver the Hellfire in a number of arenas.”
Commander Frost said he was looking forward to the first live firing of a Hellfire ‘war-shot’ in Australia, early next year.
“A number of organisations are finalising plans to support Hellfire at sea and working hard to develop comprehensive laser safety cases as well as sourcing a suitable target.
“Although the Australian Navy now has experience firing the weapon in the US, completion of the first exercise firings at an Australian weapons range will establish the foundations for future firings in support of training and test and evaluation for the life of the system.”
MH-60R (Weapons) Project Manager Tom McLaren, said that the transition of the AGM-114N from project to sustainment had been particularly smooth and efficient.
“My project team has worked hard to achieve early handover of this weapon to the through-life sustainment team and I would like to acknowledge the guys at the Royal Australian Air Force Guided Weapons System Program Office, at Defence Establishment Orchard Hills, who have accepted responsibility for sustainment of the Hellfire for the Royal Australian Navy.”
The chemical composition of the Hellfire’s metal augmented charge thermobaric warhead is substantially more effective in attacks against enclosed structures, like ships, than the current Hellfire blast and fragment variants.
The missile’s effect is capable of reaching around corners, striking enemy forces that hide in bunkers or hardened multi-room complexes.
The Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (Tiger) employs the M and R variants of the Hellfire missile.
When used against land targets, military planners are able to use computer modelling to determine the precise direction and angle of attack needed to destroy desired targets, while sparing nearby civilian facilities.
- Type: Air-to-surface missile
- Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin
- Target: Enclosures, ships, urban targets, air defence units
- Speed: 1591 km/h (Mach 1.3)
- Range: 8,000m
- Guidance: Semi-active laser homing
- Warhead: Metal Augmented Charge (MAC) (Thermobaric)
- Weight: 48kg
- Length: 163cm
- Launch platform MH-60R Seahawk