A precision-strike missile that has been a star of the US-led war on al Qaeda and its allies is about to get deadlier. The cylindrical, 108-pound (49-kg) missile, known as Hellfire II, has been the weapon of choice on remotely piloted aircraft such as the General Atomics MQ-1A Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. These drones have been hunting US foes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistani tribal areas. Among the recent targets of a CIA-operated drone was US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a top US anti-terrorist target until he was killed in northern Yemen on Sept. 30. Now an even more lethal version of the missile is close to being fielded. It wraps all of the killer applications of previous Hellfire II models into a single warhead for greater operational flexibility, according to its maker, Lockheed Martin Corp.
“One missile for many missions,” said a promotional sheet next to a Lockheed missile mock-up at an annual meeting and arms bazaar of the Association of the United States Army, held in Washington this week. The new missile is designated the AGM-114R, or Hellfire Romeo. Tipped with a “multi-purpose” warhead behind its domed nose, it is designed to knock out “hard, soft and enclosed targets” with a single Hellfire missle load, says Lockheed, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales. Lockheed said in March that fielding of the new version had been scheduled for late next year. Dan O’Boyle, a spokesman for the US Army office that manages Hellfire missile purchases at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, said: “We look forward to fielding the ‘R’ model soon.”……
“Before you would have to employ a specific missile-type to take out a particular kind of target, tank, truck, foot soldier,” he said. “This allows the aircraft to engage ‘targets of opportunity’ as they appear on the battlefield.”….Hellfire, a loose arcronym for Heliborne, Laser, Fire and Forget, is the primary air-to-ground missile system for the US armed forces, the Central Intelligence Agency’s paramilitary capabilities and many allied nations.
Excerpt, US to field deadlier missile in war againt al Qaeda, Reuters, Oct. 15, 2011