France is buying the Lockheed Martin Hellfire II missile system to give its 40 Tiger HAD (Hélicoptère d’Appui Destruction) helicopters a versatile precision attack capability. The purchase is being handled under U.S. Foreign Military Sales and will be complete by 2012. Eurocopter has already begun integration of the Hellfire II on to the Tiger HAD version, working under contract to the European Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation. The work is being performed at Marignane with Lockheed Martin support. Ground tests are due to begin this October, with flight tests scheduled to begin next March. The missile is already flying on Australia’s ARH version of the Tiger.
Hellfire II is a semi-active laser homing missile that has consistently demonstrated pinpoint accuracy. The technology allows last-second diversion of the missile from its designated aim point, if required. It also responds to both remote and autonomous laser designation, allowing the crew to achieve positive target ID before launch. Three warhead options are available: a high-explosive, antitank warhead in the AGM-114K for armored targets; AGM-114M with a blast fragmentation warhead for use against soft targets, such as boats, buildings and lightly armored vehicles; and the AGM-114N with a metal augmented charge warhead for use against enclosed targets, such as caves.
As well as the Tigers of Australia, and now France, the Hellfire II is carried by the AH-64A, AH-64D and OH-58D (U.S. Army), AH-1 Cobra (U.S. Marine Corps), SH/HH/MH-60 Seahawk (U.S. Navy), Apache AH.Mk 1 (British Army) and MQ-1 Predator (U.S. Air Force). Ground-based Hellfire IIs are also used by Norway and Sweden for coastal defense. More than 3,000 have been fired in the ongoing war on terrorism.