The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-ground, laser guided, subsonic missile with significant antitank capacity. It can also be used as an air-to-air weapon against helicopters or slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft. It provides precision striking power against tanks, structures, bunkers and helicopters. The missile can be guided to the target either from inside the aircraft or by lasers outside the aircraft. The program, which led to the introduction of the AGM-114 missile, was initiated under the name Helicopter Launched Fire and Forget Missile (leading to the acronym Hellfire).
The AGM-114B, although primarily designed for Navy use, can be fired from Army aircraft. This missile has an additional electronic arm/safety device required for shipboard use, called SAD (Safing/Arming Device). The AGM-114B also introduced the Thiokol TX-657 (M120E1) reduced-smoke rocket motor as well as some improvements to seeker and autopilot.
The AGM-114F, also known as "Interim Hellfire", is a U.S. Army version with a new dual warhead to defeat reactive armor. The small precursor warhead is inserted between the laser seeker section and the main warhead, thereby slightly increasing the length of the missile. The AGM-114F also had a guidance section with improved clutter rejection, and a slightly reduced range.
The AGM-114K Hellfire II missile features dual warheads for defeating reactive armor, electro-optical countermeasures hardening, semiactive laser seeker, and a digital autopilot that can be reprogrammed in flight for new targets and trajectory shaping. The Hellfire K that can acquire targets from altitudes of at least 15,000 ft. It is capable of operating with either pulsed radar frequency or A-Code laser codes for those aircraft equipped with dual code capability. Hellfire II incorporates many improvements over the Interim Hellfire missile. These improvements include electro-optical countermeasure hardening, improved target reacquisition capability, an advanced technology warhead system capable of defeating reactive armor configurations projected into the 21st century, reprogrammability to adapt to changing threats and mission requirements, and shipboard compatibility.
The AGM-114L is known as the Longbow Hellfire. It features a new millimeter-wave (MMW) active radar seeker for use with the AN/APG-78 Longbow radar of the AH-64D. For short-range or moving targets, the AGM-114L's MMW seeker is locked on the target before launch using data from either the AN/APG-78 or the AH-64D's TADS (Target Acquisition & Designation Sight). For long-range shots at static targets, the missile is launched in the direction of the target and controlled by its inertial system until the MMW seeker locks on for terminal guidance.
The AGM-114M is basically an AGM-114K missile with the forward warhead removed, a blast fragmentation main warhead installed in place of the shaped charged warhead, and a modified ESAF (Electronic Safe, Arm, Fire) system. The functions of the various sections, including guidance, propulsion, and control are virtually the same. The BFW (Blast Fragmentation Warhead) is designed to defeat a general class of targets represented by ships, deck mounted weapon systems, light armored vehicles and light bunkers by a combination of fragmentation and blast effects.
The AGM-114N Hellfire has an improved, Metal Augmented Charge (MAC) thermobaric warhead which dramatically increases effectiveness against enclosed targets. The chemical mix selected for the thermobaric warhead fill is substantially more effective in attacks against enclosed structures than previous Hellfire blast and fragmentation variants. The thermobaric Hellfire missile can take out the first floor of a building without damaging the floors above, and is capable of reaching around corners, striking enemy forces that hide in caves or bunkers and hardened multi-room complexes. Unlike conventional warheads, which have a sharp pressure spike that decays rapidly, the MAC has a sustained pressure wave. That pressure propagates throughout a structure to extend the lethal effects of the warhead detonation.
The AGM-114R is a multi–purpose Hellfire II missile, (aka Hellfire Romeo). It consolidates the capabilities of all previous Hellfire missile variants. It is equipped with semi–active laser (SAL) seekers into a single missile capable of defeating a broad range of targets. The AGM-114R features a three–axis inertial measurement unit, which enables properly equipped launch platforms to engage targets to the side and behind without maneuvering into position. The AGM-114R can be launched from higher altitudes than previous variants due to its enhanced guidance system and improved navigation capabilities. A new multi–purpose warhead enables the missile to defeat hard, soft and enclosed targets, which allows pilots to engage many targets with a single Hellfire loadout.