Navy Confirms Use of AARGM to Destroy Hind Attack Helicopter: Demonstrating Precision Strike Capabilities


In a significant revelation, the U.S. Navy confirmed that an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft employed an AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) to destroy a Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopter. This disclosure sheds light on the operational capabilities of the AARGM and underscores its precision strike abilities against non-radiating targets. The confirmation came after a photo released on May 15 depicted a mysterious “kill mark” of a Hind on a Growler deployed aboard the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike).

The first confirmed use of the AARGM in combat by an E/A-18G Growler occurred during the current deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet region, according to a Navy official. While the official did not explicitly connect this engagement to the Hind kill mark, it aligns with earlier speculations about the incident. The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway had suggested on May 16 that the Hind was likely struck on the ground, which is unusual for a Growler. Rogoway hypothesized that the AARGM was fired at coordinates rather than homing in on emissions, leveraging its capability as a time-sensitive target effector.

On February 24, the Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike) Carrier Strike Group led pre-planned self-defense strikes into Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen. This joint and coalition effort targeted 60 Houthi locations across 16 sites, including anti-ship missile sites, storage facilities, and command and control centers. Among the destroyed targets was a rotary-wing aircraft, an unmanned helicopter that was on the ground at the time of the strike. The Growler from VAQ-130 “Zappers” conducted the air-to-surface engagement using an AARGM, which ultimately destroyed the helicopter.

DescriptionThe AGM-88E AARGM is a medium-range air-to-ground missile employed for Suppression and/or Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD). It is an ACAT IC Cooperative program with the Italian Air Force, serving as an upgrade and compliment to the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). The AARGM system includes a new Guidance Section, modified Control Section, legacy HARM Rocket Motor and Warhead Section, wings, and fins. Key capabilities include an expanded target set, counter-shutdown capability, advanced signals processing, geographic specificity, and weapon impact-assessment broadcast capability.
Primary FunctionAir-to-ground missile for destruction of enemy air defenses
ContractorOrbital ATK, Northridge, CA
Initial Operational Capability2012
PropulsionThiokol dual thrust solid propellant (AGM-88 Rocket Motor)
Length13 ft 8 in (417 cm)
Diameter10 in (25.4 cm)
Wingspan44 in (112 cm)
Weight795 pounds (361 kg)
SpeedMach 2+
Guidance SystemGPS/INS, Anti-Radiation Homing, Terminal Millimeter Wave (MMW), multi-spectral guidance
PlatformsNavy: F/A-18C/D, FA-18E/F, EA-18G; ITAF: Tornado IDS/ECR
Platform compatibilityF-35, F-16 C/J

The AARGM, an evolution of the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), is designed primarily to suppress and destroy enemy air defenses. It boasts a range exceeding 80 miles and can achieve speeds of over twice the speed of sound. First test-fired from Growlers in 2011, the AGM-88E has been in service for several years. Cmdr. Chad Reed, then-deputy program manager for Anti-Radiation Missiles within the Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program office (PMA-242), highlighted the AARGM’s superior accuracy in striking hostile emitters compared to the existing HARM inventory. This increased precision enhances the warfighting capabilities of U.S. forces by neutralizing enemy air defenses and providing an additional tool for electronic attack missions.

One of the key advancements of the AARGM over its predecessor, the HARM, is its ability to hit threat radars with high precision even if they cease emitting radiation. This feature ensures that if a radar shuts off during an attack, the AARGM will still accurately strike it. The missile’s active millimeter-wave radar seeker further enhances its precision, allowing it to hit targets that may have moved from their original positions. This standoff precision strike capability enables the AARGM to function as a rapid response strike weapon against non-air defense-related targets, making it versatile in combat scenarios.

In the case of the Hind attack helicopter, it appears that intelligence or a component of the Navy’s ‘kill chain’ identified the helicopter as a target. The AARGM was then employed to destroy it on the ground, using its GPS/INS for initial targeting and its millimeter-wave radar seeker for final homing. This method underscores the missile’s flexibility in engaging a variety of targets, not just radiating emitters.

The tradition of kill marks, used to denote the destruction of enemy equipment, continues with this latest incident. In March, U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets aboard the Ike were adorned with kill marks to commemorate the downing of Houthi drones. Similar marks have appeared on allied aircraft involved in these missions, as well as on warships that have countered threats in the region. The Growler’s recent engagement adds to this legacy, demonstrating the aircraft’s evolving capabilities.

The Yemeni Air Force had several Mi-24/35 Hind derivatives before the Saudi-led coalition’s conflict with Houthi rebels. It was initially believed that these helicopters were either destroyed or rendered unserviceable during the war. However, reports indicate that a small number may have remained operational, contributing to the ongoing hostilities. The destruction of a Hind by a Growler using an AARGM highlights the persistent threat posed by such assets and the need for advanced weaponry to counter them.

The Growler’s expanded air-to-air missile capabilities, including additional AIM-120 AMRAAM carriage options and the forthcoming addition of AIM-9X missiles, further enhance its combat effectiveness. Given the activity of Houthi drones in the Red Sea region, the possibility of a Growler scoring an air-to-air kill remains high, if it hasn’t occurred already.

The confirmation of the AARGM’s use against the Hind attack helicopter provides valuable insight into the missile’s operational deployment and the strategic considerations guiding such actions. As conflicts continue to evolve, the need for versatile and precise strike capabilities becomes increasingly apparent, with the AARGM serving as a critical component of the U.S. Navy’s arsenal.

In the broader context of modern warfare, the ability to neutralize a variety of threats, from radars to helicopters, underscores the importance of advanced missile systems like the AARGM. The evolution from the HARM to the AARGM reflects ongoing advancements in military technology, aimed at enhancing the precision and effectiveness of U.S. forces in diverse combat scenarios.

The role of electronic warfare aircraft like the EA-18G Growler is crucial in modern military operations. By integrating advanced weaponry and electronic attack capabilities, these aircraft provide a significant tactical advantage. The successful deployment of the AARGM in this context highlights the synergy between electronic warfare and precision strike capabilities, a combination that is essential for maintaining superiority in complex operational environments.

The engagement in Yemen, targeting Houthi-controlled territories and assets, illustrates the strategic importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and protecting civilian merchant shipping in critical regions. The use of advanced missiles like the AARGM ensures that threats can be neutralized swiftly and accurately, minimizing collateral damage and enhancing mission success.

As the Navy continues to develop and deploy advanced missile systems, the integration of cutting-edge technology and robust intelligence capabilities will be key to addressing emerging threats. The confirmation of the AARGM’s use in combat against a Hind attack helicopter not only showcases the missile’s precision strike capabilities but also reinforces the Navy’s commitment to maintaining a formidable and adaptable force.

In conclusion, the Navy’s confirmation of the AARGM’s use against a Hind attack helicopter marks a significant milestone in the evolution of precision strike capabilities. The incident underscores the versatility and effectiveness of the AARGM in engaging a wide range of targets, reflecting ongoing advancements in military technology and strategic operations. As conflicts continue to evolve, the integration of advanced missile systems and electronic warfare capabilities will remain essential for maintaining tactical superiority and achieving mission success.

$144 Million U.S.-U.A.E. Arms Deal: Enhancing Middle Eastern Defense Capabilities

The U.S. State Department recently approved a significant $144 million arms deal with the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), aimed at bolstering the nation’s defense capabilities through the provision of High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) Control Section Modification (HCSM) upgrade kits and associated equipment. This deal underscores the strategic partnership between the U.S. and the U.A.E., enhancing the latter’s capacity to deter threats and protect its borders and critical infrastructure.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) formally notified Congress of the proposed sale, emphasizing the U.A.E.’s request for 149 WCU-33/B HCSM upgrade kits. These kits, along with high bandwidth telemetry kits, are intended to support integration efforts within the continental U.S. (CONUS) exclusively. The contract encompasses the provision of related equipment and support to ensure the seamless integration and operational effectiveness of the upgraded systems.

The Importance of the U.A.E. as a Strategic Partner

The U.A.E. is recognized as a pivotal partner in the Middle East, playing a crucial role in political and economic advancement within the region. This proposed arms sale is designed to further fortify the U.A.E.’s capacity to deter threats and safeguard its borders and critical infrastructure. The Pentagon highlighted the strategic significance of this sale, reinforcing the U.S.’s commitment to supporting its allies in maintaining regional stability and security.

Primary Contractor: RTX Corporation

RTX Corporation, headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, is the primary contractor for this initiative. The company’s expertise and experience in defense production make it a suitable partner for delivering the HCSM upgrade kits and associated equipment. RTX Corporation’s involvement ensures that the U.A.E. will receive state-of-the-art technology to enhance its defense capabilities.

Overview of the AGM-88 HARM

The AGM-88 HARM is an air-to-surface missile designed to target electronic transmissions from surface-to-air radar systems. Initially developed by Texas Instruments to replace the AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-78 Standard ARM, the production of the AGM-88 HARM was later managed by Raytheon after acquiring Texas Instruments’ defense production business. This missile is a joint project between the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, highlighting its significance in the U.S. military arsenal.

Technical Specifications of the AGM-88 HARM

The AGM-88 HARM autonomously detects and destroys radar transmitters with a fixed antenna and seeker head in the nose. It is propelled by a smokeless, solid-propellant rocket motor, achieving speeds exceeding Mach 2. The missile’s design allows it to effectively neutralize radar systems, thereby reducing the threat of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) targeting aircraft.

Development and Production

The development of the AGM-88 HARM involved extensive research and testing to ensure its effectiveness in combat scenarios. The missile’s ability to autonomously detect and engage radar transmitters makes it a critical component of the U.S. military’s electronic warfare capabilities. The transition of production from Texas Instruments to Raytheon ensured continuity in the missile’s development, leveraging Raytheon’s extensive experience in defense manufacturing.

Deployment and Operational Use

The AGM-88 HARM is deployed by both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, reflecting its versatility and importance in modern warfare. The missile has been successfully used in various combat operations, demonstrating its effectiveness in neutralizing radar threats and enhancing the survivability of aircraft in hostile environments.

The HARM Control Section Modification (HCSM)

The HARM Control Section Modification (HCSM) is a significant upgrade to the AGM-88 HARM, integrating satellite and inertial navigation for precise targeting. This modification enhances the missile’s capabilities, allowing it to engage targets with greater accuracy and reliability, even in complex and dynamic environments.

Enhanced Capabilities of the HCSM

The HCSM upgrade prevents engagement in designated exclusion zones, ensuring that the missile does not inadvertently target friendly forces or non-combatants. This capability is crucial in modern warfare, where the risk of collateral damage and fratricide must be minimized. The HCSM’s ability to counter advanced counter-HARM tactics further enhances its effectiveness, making it a formidable tool in electronic warfare.

Development and Testing

The development of the HCSM involved rigorous testing to validate its performance in various scenarios. Raytheon, the developer of the HCSM, conducted extensive trials to ensure that the upgraded missile could accurately engage targets despite distractions within exclusion zones. These tests demonstrated the HCSM’s capability to operate effectively in complex environments, reinforcing its value as a critical upgrade to the HARM program.

Integration with Existing Systems

The HCSM upgrade kits are designed to be seamlessly integrated with existing AGM-88 HARM missiles, allowing for a cost-effective enhancement of current capabilities. This integration process involves the provision of high bandwidth telemetry kits and related equipment to support the upgrade efforts within CONUS. The comprehensive support package ensures that the U.A.E. can effectively incorporate the HCSM upgrades into its defense systems.

Strategic Implications of the Arms Deal

The approval of the $144 million arms deal with the U.A.E. has significant strategic implications for both the U.S. and the Middle East region. This sale underscores the U.S.’s commitment to supporting its allies in maintaining regional security and stability.

Strengthening Regional Security

The enhancement of the U.A.E.’s defense capabilities through the HCSM upgrade kits will strengthen regional security by improving the nation’s ability to deter threats and protect its critical infrastructure. The U.A.E.’s strategic location in the Middle East makes it a key player in regional security dynamics, and this arms deal reinforces its role as a stabilizing force in the region.

Deterring Potential Threats

The upgraded capabilities provided by the HCSM will enhance the U.A.E.’s ability to deter potential threats, including hostile radar systems and surface-to-air missiles. The precision targeting and advanced navigation features of the HCSM will enable the U.A.E. to effectively neutralize radar threats, thereby reducing the risk of missile attacks on its aircraft and critical infrastructure.

Enhancing Defense Readiness

The provision of HCSM upgrade kits and associated equipment will enhance the U.A.E.’s overall defense readiness, ensuring that its military forces are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to respond to emerging threats. The integration of these upgrades will provide the U.A.E. with a significant advantage in electronic warfare, enhancing its ability to operate effectively in complex and contested environments.

Reinforcing U.S.-U.A.E. Strategic Partnership

The approval of this arms deal reinforces the strategic partnership between the U.S. and the U.A.E., highlighting the importance of collaboration in maintaining regional stability. The U.S.’s commitment to supporting the defense capabilities of its allies underscores the value of these partnerships in addressing common security challenges.

Political and Economic Benefits

The arms deal has both political and economic benefits for the U.S. and the U.A.E. Politically, the sale strengthens the bilateral relationship between the two nations, fostering closer cooperation on security and defense issues. Economically, the deal provides opportunities for U.S. defense contractors, such as RTX Corporation, to expand their business and contribute to the U.S. economy.

The $144 million arms deal approved by the U.S. State Department to enhance the U.A.E.’s defense capabilities through HARM Control Section Modification (HCSM) upgrade kits represents a significant step in bolstering regional security and reinforcing the strategic partnership between the U.S. and the U.A.E. The provision of advanced technology and comprehensive support underscores the U.S.’s commitment to supporting its allies in maintaining stability and addressing emerging threats in the Middle East. This arms deal not only enhances the U.A.E.’s capacity to deter threats and protect its critical infrastructure but also strengthens the broader security architecture of the region, contributing to long-term peace and stability.

APPENDIX 1 – technical Data and Capabilities of AGM-88 HARM and HCSM Upgrade Kits

AGM-88 HARM Missile

  • Type: Air-to-surface anti-radiation missile
  • Manufacturer: Originally Texas Instruments, now Raytheon Technologies
  • Guidance System: Passive radar homing
  • Propulsion: Smokeless, solid-propellant rocket motor
  • Speed: Over Mach 2
  • Range:
    • AGM-88B: Approximately 80 km (50 miles)
    • AGM-88C: Approximately 150 km (93 miles)
  • Warhead:
    • Type: Blast-fragmentation
    • Weight: Approximately 66 kg (145 lb)
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 4.17 m (13.7 ft)
    • Diameter: 0.254 m (10 in)
    • Wingspan: 1.118 m (3.67 ft)
  • Weight: Approximately 360 kg (800 lb)
  • Platforms: F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, EA-18G Growler, Tornado ECR, others

HARM Control Section Modification (HCSM)

  • Guidance Enhancements:
    • Integration of satellite navigation (GPS)
    • Inertial navigation system (INS)
  • Capabilities:
    • Improved targeting accuracy
    • Avoidance of designated exclusion zones
    • Effective against radar shutdown and decoys
    • Reduced collateral damage and fratricide
  • Components:
    • WCU-33/B HCSM upgrade kits
    • High bandwidth telemetry kits for integration and testing

Contract Details

  • Contract Value: $144 million
  • Number of HCSM Upgrade Kits: 149 WCU-33/B
  • Contractor: RTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon Technologies)
  • Location: Tucson, Arizona
  • Associated Equipment:
    • High bandwidth telemetry kits
    • Support and integration within the continental U.S. (CONUS)

Scheme Table with Detailed Information

Missile NameAGM-88 HARM
TypeAir-to-surface anti-radiation missile
ManufacturerOriginally Texas Instruments, now Raytheon Technologies
Guidance SystemPassive radar homing
PropulsionSmokeless, solid-propellant rocket motor
SpeedOver Mach 2
RangeAGM-88B: ~80 km (50 miles); AGM-88C: ~150 km (93 miles)
Warhead TypeBlast-fragmentation
Warhead WeightApproximately 66 kg (145 lb)
DimensionsLength: 4.17 m (13.7 ft); Diameter: 0.254 m (10 in); Wingspan: 1.118 m (3.67 ft)
WeightApproximately 360 kg (800 lb)
PlatformsF-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, EA-18G Growler, Tornado ECR, others
HCSM IntegrationSatellite navigation (GPS); Inertial navigation system (INS)
HCSM CapabilitiesImproved targeting accuracy; Avoidance of designated exclusion zones; Effective against radar shutdown and decoys; Reduced collateral damage
HCSM ComponentsWCU-33/B HCSM upgrade kits; High bandwidth telemetry kits
Contract Value$144 million
Number of Upgrade Kits149 WCU-33/B
ContractorRTX Corporation (formerly Raytheon Technologies)
Contractor LocationTucson, Arizona
Associated EquipmentHigh bandwidth telemetry kits; Support and integration within the continental U.S. (CONUS)
Purpose of SaleEnhance U.A.E.’s defense capabilities; Fortify capacity to deter threats; Safeguard borders and critical infrastructure
ApprovalU.S. State Department
Notification to CongressDefense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)

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