The M299 launcher recognises and launches all HELLFIRE variants. Credit: James Emery/Flickr (Creative Commons).


In October Lockheed Martin was awarded a $25.9 million dollar contract to buy new launcher for the M-299 “All Up Launchers” (AULs) along with spare parts and support for the US Army and its customers overseas.

As the press release said at the time, “The M299 Launcher provides an affordable multi-platform, multi-mission capability for the HELLFIRE and Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM). It operates in severe flight environments, with a digital design that allows interface with a variety of platforms. The M299 Launcher has the unique ability to recognize and fire all HELLFIRE variants and JAGM in any sequence plausible.”

Norway announced that it would begin sending Hellfire missiles to Ukraine in September.  The unit cost of the launchers is about $35,000  copy so the size of the contract at $25,9 million suggests a lot of new launchers are being ordered.  The M-299 launcher system can be mounted on helicopters and even drones like the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.

This upgraded and all-digital launcher system is designed to launch the Hellfire II system in all its variants and will replace the current launcher system on US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force helicopters and drones.

The AGM-114R is the latest Hellfire II type,  equipped with a semi-active laser seeker to hit many kinds of targets. The AGM-114R can be launched from fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, surface ships, and military ground vehicles. It’s also a very smart missile capable of maneuvering to the side or rear of a target like a tank to hit the weak spots in its armor.

The part about ground vehicles able to fire the M-299 is interesting.  Ukraine really doesn’t have many helicopters to carry these launchers but it’s not lacking in ground vehicles to mount them on.

In the next couple of years, the US military will be moving away from the Hellfire II missile and adopting Lockheed’s new AGM-179 Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM), which incorporates a semi-active-laser-and millimeter-wave-radar-guidance system  This missile will be common to all US military branches.  It’s possible the US will accelerate the adoption of the new AGM-179 and begin sending the old Hellfire missiles in inventory to Ukraine along with a free hundred of these new launchers, or give them the older launchers and replace our own with the new system.

Ukraine can certainly use them,  The Hellfire is able to reach out to targets at more than four miles which are well beyond the range of the cannons in Russian tanks, and it is a true standoff weapon.  Mounted on a pickup truck these launchers would allow Ukraine’s armed forces to remain highly mobile and engage Russian armored columns in hit-and-run and flanking attacks.




The US had previously announced that it was sending the BAE Systems, 70mm Laser-guided APKWS  to Ukraine. They can be installed on Pickups-trucks. The Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System consists of laser seeker heads fitted to the Hydra rockets that were previously unguided munitions. Ranging out to 4-6 miles, the APKWS is capable of pinpoint accuracy on a laser-painted target.  A target that can be lased from a drone.

There have been news reports that the US is running out of weapons to send to Ukraine that we are skeptical of for two reasons, first the sources are unnamed in these stories, and second, the quantity of arms we keep in our arms stockpiles is not disclosed.  Currently, the US sends missiles and shells from our ready inventory to Ukraine and purchases new stock to replenish it.  A side benefit to the Ukraine war is that the US will have all new missiles and shells in its warehouses when this war is over with.  Manufacturers like Raythoen and Lockheed Martin and a host of others are all expanding their capacity to replace these stocks as quickly as possible. Given the numbers being ordered, the cost of these munitions will be less.

As the above news item suggests, the US may also be accelerating the replacement of older weapons systems with newer versions in order to ship the older ones to Ukraine.  That isn’t a bad thing for the US military either in terms of national security.