Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk Romeo Utility Maritime Helicopter
Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk Romeo Utility Maritime Helicopter

Australian Government to Order 800 Hellfire Romeo AGM-114R2 Air-to-surface Missiles

The U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Australian Government of Hellfire AGM-114R2 Missiles and related equipment for an estimated cost of $108 million. The Australian Government has requested to buy up to eight hundred (800) Hellfire AGM-114R2 Air-to-surface Missiles. Also included is Tactical Aviation Ground Munition Program Office Technical Assistance; Security Assistance Management Directorate, Joint Attack Munition Systems Technical Assistance; classified and unclassified publications; spare parts; repair and return; storage; and other related elements of program and logistical support.

The AGM-114 Hellfire (AGM stands for air-to-ground missile) is an air-to-surface missile (ASM) first developed for anti-armor use, but later models were developed for precision drone strikes against other target types, and have been used in a number of actions aimed to “destroy high-value targets.” It was originally developed under the name Heliborne laser, fire-and-forget missile, which led to the colloquial name “Hellfire” ultimately becoming the missile’s formal name. The AGM-114R “Romeo” Hellfire II entered service in late 2012. It uses a semi-active laser homing guidance system and a K-charge multipurpose warhead to engage targets that previously needed multiple Hellfire variants. It will replace AGM-114K, M, N, and P variants in U.S. service. In October 2012, the U.S. ordered 24,000 Hellfire II missiles, for both the U.S. armed forces and foreign customers.

Royal Australian Navy 725 Squadron conducted firings of the AGM-114N Hellfire missile from MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ Utility maritime helicopters.(Photo by Australian Government Department of Defence)

The AGM-114R multipurpose missile is the latest in the Hellfire II missile range. Also known as the Hellfire Romeo, the missile integrates capabilities of all previous Hellfire II variants equipped with semi-active laser (SAL) seekers into a single missile, defeating a range of targets. The first proof-of-principle (POP) flight test for AGM-114R was successfully conducted in October 2009, while the second POP was completed in April 2010. Lockheed Martin conducted the third POP test in August 2010. From launch to detonation sequence, the Hellfire Romeo incorporates a variety of technological improvements that enhance its effectiveness and utility. Sixth and the final POP test was conducted in March 2011. All the tests were successfully carried out at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

The Australian Government approved the acquisition of 24 MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters at a cost of over $3 billion. The MH-60R Seahawk is the Royal Australian Navy’s next generation submarine hunter and anti-surface warfare helicopter and will form a very important part of its operations for years to come. The MH-60R is equipped with a highly sophisticated combat systems designed to employ Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and the Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedo. The primary missions of the ‘Romeo’ helicopter is anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. The AGM-114N variant which the Royal Australian Navy has purchased contains a Metal Augmented Charge (MAC) and is ideal for the Navy’s use from the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter in the anti-surface warfare role. The MH-60R is capable of carrying up to eight Hellfire missiles.

NUSQN 725 Operations Officer LCDR Nigel Rowan conducts pre-flight checks on the ‘Hellfire’ prior to launch from the Royal Australian Navy MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’. (Photo by LCDR Stephan Immerz/Australian Government Department of Defence)