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Hellfire R9X missile

Published: 10th Aug, 2022


Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a US strike recently. The US military used its 'secret weapon', the Hellfire R9X missile, to kill him.


Hellfire R9X Missile:

  • The Hellfire R9X (or AGM-114 R9X) is a US-origin missile known to cause minimum collateral damage while engaging individual targets.
  • It is also known as the ‘Ninja Missile’.
  • This weapon does not carry a warhead and instead 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 using the kinetic energy of its propulsion without causing any damage to the persons in the general vicinity or to the structure of the building.
  • The blades pop out of the missile and cut down the intended target without causing the massive damage to the surroundings which would be the case with a missile carrying an explosive warhead.
  • The Hellfire 9RX missile is known to have been in active service since 2017.
    • However, its existence became public knowledge two years later in 2019.
  • It is a variant of the original Hellfire missile family which is used in conventional form with warheads and is traditionally used from helicopters, ground-based vehicles, and sometimes small ships and fast moving vessels.
  • Hellfire is actually an acronym for Heliborne, Laser, Fire and Forget Missile and it was developed in the US initially to target tanks from the Apache AH-64 attack helicopters.
    • Later, the usage of these missiles spread to several other variants of helicopters and also ground and sea-based systems and drones.
  • The Hellfire missile has other variants such as ‘Longbow’ and ‘Romeo’ apart from the ‘Ninja’.

Ayman al-Zawahiri:

  • Zawahiri took over the leadership of Al-Qaeda after the US Forces hunted down Osama bin Laden in Jalalabad of Pakistan.
  • He served three years as a surgeon in the Egyptian Army, but his journey from an eye surgeon to becoming a most wanted global terrorist started after he met Laden in 1986, and joined Laden as his personal advisor and physician.
  • In 1993, he took over the leadership of Islamic Jihad in Egypt and was found to be involved in the killing of over 1,200 Egyptians.

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