Facts about Hellfire R9X, the missile that killed Ayman al-Zawahiri
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) killed the Al-Qaeda supremo and mastermind of the US September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Ayman al-Zawahiri on Sunday. The execution was carried out using a Hellfire R9X missile, renowned for causing minimum collateral damage while engaging targets. But how was the US government's "secret weapon" created and how does it work? Let us find out.
Why does this story matter?
- The US has always been at the forefront of technological innovations, especially when it comes to weapons.
- Ayman al-Zawahiri's killing marks the closure of the biggest blot on the country's intelligence failure which led to the loss of 3,000 lives.
- The execution comes a year after the US military withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban regime took over.
Hellfire R9X was developed during the Obama administration
Hellfire stands for Heliborne, Laser, Fire, and Forget. This missile was initially used to target tanks from Apache AH-64 choppers. Now, it is also loaded onto other helicopters and drones. Its 9RX variant is known as AGM-114 R9X. Developed during the Obama administration, it entered active duty in 2017 but its existence was hidden from the public till 2019.
How does the missile work?
Instead of carrying warheads, the Hellfire R9X deploys a halo of six razor-sharp blades at the end stage of its attack trajectory. It can break through thick steel sheets and slice down the target, without destabilizing the building or harming surrounding individuals. The target simply gets killed by the blades. If missiles carrying warheads are used, the collateral damage will be huge.
This missile has been used in Syria and Afghanistan
Hellfire R9X also known as 'Ninja Missile' was used in 2017 in Syria, to eliminate Abu Khayr Al Masri, the then second highest leader of Al-Qaeda. Taliban targets in Afghanistan in 2020 and 2022 also faced the fury of this weapon.
Who was Ayman al-Zawahiri?
Ayman al-Zawahiri, a surgeon in the Egyptian army, met Osama Bin Laden in 1986 and became the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1993. He merged the group with Al-Qaeda in 1998. In 2001, he was designated the number two position on the US's list of most wanted terrorists. There have been multiple attempts on his life, but it all ended last month.