The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed a £15 million ($22.9 million) contract to replenish its stocks of Lockheed Martin’s AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. These are used on the British Army Air Corps (AAC) WAH-64D Apaches and reportedly on the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Reaper unmanned aerial systems (UAS), which have used a total of 380 weapons in Afghanistan.
Figures provided in the House of Commons in June 2011 by Peter Luff MP, then-Minister for Defense Equipment, Support and Technology, outlined the usage of Hellfire missiles both in training and in operational use in Afghanistan by British Apache attack helicopters from January 2008 through to mid 2011:
January 2008 – December 2008: 151
January 2009 – December 2009: 164
January 2010 – December 2010: 128
January 2011 – May 2011: 108
“The Hellfire missile has shown itself to be the weapon of choice for Apache attack helicopter operations, proving to be an accurate and reliable weapon system and providing airborne fire support to ground forces,” said Luff.
In addition to Afghanistan, the Hellfire was also used by Apache’s flying off HMS Ocean against the Libyan forces loyal to Col. Gaddafi.
Hellfire missiles, although more powerful and costlier than the Apache’s other type of missile – the unguided 2.75mm rocket – have been used due to their accuracy. Unguided missiles have not been favored due to the MoD’s stated commitment to reduce collateral damage and civilian casualties wherever possible.
Col. Andy Cash, Commander of the UK’s Apache Force, said: “The Hellfire missile has undoubtedly saved the lives of British and Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan and played an important role in the air campaign in Libya. It is an extremely reliable missile and without doubt the weapon of choice for the Apache pilot and Ground Force commander.”