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Rockwell Missile Systems firing in all directions.

Rockwell Missile Systems Firing in All Directions

The least one can say of Rockwell International's Missile Systems Division is that it has a finger in many pies. Although the division has become almost a synonym for Hellfire since the development of this weapon for the AH-64 Apache, it is involved in a number of other airborne systems, like the GBU-15, the AGM-130 and the laser seekers of the US Marine Corps AGM-65 Maverick. The name Hellfire has become such a byword that it has completely overshadowed the other designation of the missile - AGM - 114 - which, after all, is the official one.


The production go-ahead contract for the Hellfire was awarded by the US Army's Missile Command in April 1982, but due to delays with the production of the helicopter for which it had been primarily developed, the first production unit did not roll off the line until December 1984. Since then, the Hellfire has been the object of a number of improvement programmes and been given other applications. One of the first modifications concerned the rocket motor, for which a minimum smoke propellant was developed in cooperation with Thiokol. Then, in May 1986, the division received a $26.6 million contract for the development of a digital autopilot, and finally, in September 1988, another contract - valued at $15.2 million - covered the development of an improved warhead capable of defeating new-generation armour.

As regards applications, the Hellfire is also the primary armament of the US Marine Corps AH-1W Super-Cobra. It is also used on the US Army's OH-58D, has been integrated with the UH-60 Black Hawk and has even been test-fired from a non-American helicopter like the Lynx.

Although primarily developed for helicopters, the Hellfire missile is now widening its field of applications. In June, Rockwell will be delivering the first production hardware to Sweden for the joint manufacture with Bofors of the coastal defence Hellfire. This programme was started in 1984 with the award by the Swedish Government of an $8 million development contract. This was followed by a $64 million production contract in June 1987. As a result of this development, the US Navy announced in October 1988 that it was to conduct a series of test launches to evaluate the Hellfire as an anti-ship system. Faced with these two options, the Navy will first evaluate the warheads originally developed under the Swedish Hellfire shore defence system programme. The second option covers the integration of the missile in a stabilized platform for installation aboard a naval surface effects ship. Four ship launches are planned this Summer to demonstrate the weapon's coastal, harbour and shiplane defence capabilities.

A land vehicle application thus became the almost inevitable next step in the development sequence of the Hellfire. This materialized in March this year with the first launches of a Hellfire from a multipurpose wheeled vehicle. Under a US Army contract, the Missile System Division had developed a palletized pedestal launcher system that allows the vehicle to carry two missiles ready for launch and an additional six stored missiles. In this application, the missiles are remotely fired from the vehicle using a firing panel developed as part of the Swedish programme.

GBU-15 & AGM-130

The AGM-130 system is currently in the very last stages of testing. This weapon is basically a powered derivative of the 2000 lb (910 kg) Mk. 84-based GBU-15 air-to-ground guided bomb which entered fullscale production in 1980. The AGM-130 was developed for the US Air Force as a fixed-wing aircraft-launched weapon for the destruction of ground-based targets and ships. It has a typical (not maximum) range of around 25 km and has TV guidance with IR backup. In November 1988 the AGM-130 successfully completed its fifth development flight test. This launch, which concluded the F-4 development test and evaluation phase, was performed from an altitude of 1500 feet at a distance of 11.5 miles from the target, and resulted in a direct hit. The first of three planned test launches from an F-111 on 29 January was also a success on several counts: it was also the first launch over the sea at a ship target, the first launch from 20000 feet and the first twenty-four mile extended range launch. The weapon was released at Mach 0.9, flew a tactical flight profile which included altitude decrements generated by commands from the aircraft through the data-link; the rocket motor was ignited during the descent and the missile leveled off at 200 feet before hitting the target.

The second test in March was another success, and if all future trials follow the present trend, there is no doubt that Rockwell will be busy answering questions at the next Paris Air Show in June.

PHOTO : With the HMMWV (simply pronounce "hummvee") Rockwell has opened up a new field of

PHOTO : applications for its AGM-114.

PHOTO : The strong affiliation of the Hellfire with the Apache tends to overshadow its other

PHOTO : platforms like, here, the OH-58D.
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Publication:Armada International
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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