Hellfire R9X missile that Killed Zawahari; What’s It?

Hellfire R9X missile that Killed Zawahari; What's It?

The United States on July 31 killed top al – Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was listed as the most wanted. Reports say that the US used its ‘secret weapon’ – the Hellfire R9X missile – to kill al- Qaeda amir. Let us look at some of the details of this secret missile that wiped out the most wanted terrorist. 


Thye secret missile is better called in military circles as AGM-114 R9X. This missile of US origin causes minimum collateral damage while engaging individual targets. Hellfire R9X missile is basically a modified version of the renowned Hellfire missile which was an anti-tank weapon developed in the 1980s. It was modified numerous times, especially after the 9/11 attacks, to target individuals.

Hellfire is also known as ‘Ninja Missile’. It does not carry a warhead. Instead, it deploys razor-sharp blades at the terminal stage of its attack trajectory. This helps it to break through even thick steel sheets and cut down the target.  As the blade pop out of the missile and cut down the intended target, it does not cause massive damage to the surroundings.


Ahead of using the missile to kill Zawahiri, the secret missile was reportedly used in 2017 to kill the then No 2 leader of Al Qaeda, Abu Khayr Al Masri, in Syria. Known for breaking through hard targets, the first signs of this missile used widely in Syria was quite evident from the shredded roofs of cars. The same missile was used against Taliban targets in Afghanistan in 2020 and again in 2022. In January 2019, the weapon was used to kill Jamal al-Badawi.


An acronym for Heliborne, Laser, Fire and Forget Missile, the missile was developed initially to target tanks from the Apache AH-64 attack helicopters. Later, it spread to several other variants of helicopters and also ground and sea-based systems and drones.

Developed by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, the Hellfire missile has other variants such as ‘Longbow’ and ‘Romeo’ apart from the ‘Ninja’.

Hellfire R9X missile, with its reduced collateral damage and civilian casualties, is one of the most precise munitions of its kind in the world. It is a It is a flying bundle of swords that can hit only the target and not the people.


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