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Anatomy of the Hellfire that killed Zawahiri in Kabul

Anatomy of the Hellfire that killed Zawahiri in Kabul
Photo Credit: 123RF.com
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On 2 August, the US killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Afghanistan, using a Hellfire R9X missile fired by a drone. It does not use any explosive warhead, and hence causes minimum collateral damage. Mint explains the use of drone attacks. 

What exactly is Hellfire?  

The aim of the Hellfire R9X is to minimize civilian deaths, and reportedly, it was pressed into action when the former US president Barack Obama was in office. It is thus a modified version of the Hellfire missile that was designed as an anti-tank weapon in the 1980s and later modified several times, especially after the 9/11 attacks, to target terrorists across the Middle East. An Hellfire R9X missile, for instance, was used to kill Al Qaeda’s
then-second ranking leader Abu al Khayr a Masri - Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law in Syria in 2017, the Wall Street Journal had reported. 

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Why is there so much buzz over Hellfire?  

Designed to be launched from an unmanned drone (or even a helicopter), the Hellfire R9X is a ‘kinetic kill’ missile or projectile. It hits the chosen target at a very high velocity. However, instead of an explosive warhead, it deploys six blade-like metal contraptions to kill its target. It goes by nicknames like “the flying Ginsu” or “the Ninja bomb”. These are very accurate missiles. They measure less than 4.5 feet in length and do not weigh more than 50kg. They can be fired up to 7.5 miles away and use a combination of laser and millimeter wave (MMW) technology. 

How does Hellfire R9X missile work?  

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Its “fire and forget” radar allows operatives to select the target using a laser beam and retreat without having to keep it focused. This is why Hellfire stands for Heliborne, Laser, Fire and Forget Missile. Hellfire RX9 stabs its rotating blade-like contraptions into the target at very high velocity. It is so precise that it would not kill anyone unless the person is exactly behind the target.  

Read the full story at Livemint.