Air Weapons: Hellfire And Brimstone

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April 3, 2011: British warplanes have had great success in Libya with their Brimstone missiles. Originally developed as an upgraded version of the American Hellfire, Brimstone ended up as a Hellfire in shape only. Weighing the same as the Hellfire (48.5 kg/107 pounds), Brimstone was designed to be fired by fighter-bombers, not just (as with Hellfire) from helicopters and UAVs. Three years ago, Britain added a dual-mode (radar and laser) seeker to its Brimstone missiles. Originally, Brimstone was to be just an American Hellfire with a British seeker (a miniature, millimeter wave, radar), but it has become a highly effective anti-vehicle weapon for fast-movers (jet fighter-bombers).

Hellfire was first developed three decades ago as an anti-tank weapon, but has proved to be very useful against enemy infantry hiding out in buildings or caves. The current version has a range of eight kilometers, while Brimstone has a range of 12 kilometers.
 
The radar seeker makes it easier to use the missile in "fire and forget" mode. The laser seeker is more accurate (to within a meter or two of the aim point.) When used on jet fighters, like the Tornado, there is a special launcher that holds three Brimstone missiles (instead of one larger missile). The launcher hangs from one of the Tornado hardpoints. This launcher will also be used on the new Eurofighter. The nine kilogram (20 pound) warhead was sufficient to destroy vehicles, without causing a lot of casualties to nearby civilians. British fighter pilots have become quite good at coming in low and taking out individual vehicles with Brimstone missiles.

 

 


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