Army Might Boost Hellfire Production By Thousands Of Missiles

To meet warfighters’ growing demand for the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, the U.S. Army says it might increase production of the air-to-ground weapon by several thousand missiles a year.

The Army asked prime contractor Lockheed Martin [LMT] “earlier this year” to submit a proposal to boost production to up to 11,000 missiles a year starting in fiscal year 2019, said Dan O’Boyle, spokesman for the Army’s Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM). 

An Apache helicopter is armed with Hellfire missiles. (Army photo)

An Apache helicopter is loaded with Hellfire missiles. (Army photo)

If the 11,000 figure is achieved in FY 2019, it would represent a jump of more than 3,000 missiles from the 7,664 Hellfires that the Department of Defense has proposed buying in its FY 2018 budget request. Lockheed Martin is currently on track to reach a monthly production rate of 650 Hellfires by November, O’Boyle said Oct. 20.

O’Boyle’s comments came three days after an Air Force acquisition official said the service was working with the Army to expand Hellfire production (Defense Daily, Oct. 17).

The Army and Air Force are both major consumers of Hellfire. According to DoD’s budget request, which awaits approval from Congress, the Army and Air Force plan to buy 3,925 and 3,629 missiles, respectively, in FY 2018. The Navy is a distant third, at 110 missiles.

Separately, Boeing [BA] spokesman Jerry Drelling said that the production hikes the Air Force wants for the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) Increment 1 and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) will be achieved in late 2018 and February 2019, respectively. The Air Force has indicated that it wants to push SDB Inc. 1 production to 8,000 glide bombs a year, up from 5,000, and JDAM production to 45,000 bomb guidance tail kits a year, up from 35,000.

Meanwhile, BAE Systems is preparing to meet increased demand for its Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rocket. The Air Force has indicated that it is working with the Navy to ratchet up APKWS production.

“We have produced more than 10,000 units to date and we continue to ramp production capacity in advance of demand,” said Marc Casseres, BAE’s product line director for precision guidance and sensing solutions. “Our production facility was built to accommodate the production of over 20,000 units per year.”

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