Raytheon’s Hellfire missile, the weapon choice for the US Air Force against insurgents in Pakistan for the last decade, is essentially meant to destroy tanks and buildings.
According to data collated by Amnesty International, the Hellfire missile was first used in 2004 which killed two civilians and three militants. Altogether, an estimated 2,555 militants and 153 civilians have been killed so far. Amnesty International is now asserting that the use of drones armed with the hellfire should amount to war crimes.
In 2011, the US took delivery of upgraded Hellfires and launched 64 drone attacks the same year killing 405 militants and 30 civilians. Compared with the previous year, the Hellfires killed 801 militants and 14 civilians.
Essential an anti-armor missile used to penetrate high-strength steel, its effects on targeted killings of humans would be catastrophic to say the least with significant collateral damage.
The Hellfire has been used in the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin (2004) by the Israeli Air Force, Anwar al-Awlaki (American-born Islamic cleric in Yemen in 2011) and Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan in 2012 by the United States.
The latest AGM-114R multipurpose missile, the Hellfire II range, integrates capabilities of all previous Hellfire II variants and is equipped with semi-active laser (SAL) seekers into a single missile, defeating a range of targets.
The Hellfire II is provided with a choice of three warheads - a tandem warhead (to defeat advanced / reactive armor), blast-fragmentation warhead with delay fuse is used against soft, light armored targets, small boats, brick and concrete structures and bunkers.
For anti-armour roles, the AGM-114 missile is equipped with a conical shaped charge warhead with a copper liner cone forming the jet for armour penetration.