Aug. 25 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has received a $547.9 million contract for the production and delivery of Hellfire II air-to-ground attack missiles.
The Department of Defense on Thursday announced the contract, which calls for 7,359 Hellfire II missiles, including their containers, to be delivered in several air-to-ground variants. The production run will occur in Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2020.
The Hellfire II is the primary air-to-ground short-range precision guided missile for U.S. helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, and is in service with many other nations. It has been produced in ground and ship-launched models as well.
The Hellfire uses a laser-guidance system that can either be directed by a laser targeting pod on the launching aircraft or a separate laser designator used by ground forces or other aircraft.
A variant used by the AH-64 Apache Longbow uses a radar and inertial guidance system that utilizes a fire-and-forget capability, which does not require continuous lock from the launching helicopter like the laser version does.
The Hellfire was designed primarily as an air-launched anti-tank weapon and has been in service since 1984. It has seen widespread use in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters as a general precision strike weapon.
It has been the main weapon used by unmanned aerial vehicles in the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency's targeted drone strike program. More than 15,000 have been used in conventional and targeted attacks since 2001.