Hellfire R9X: The Missile With Blades Instead of a Warhead That Killed Al-Qaeda’s Chief

The Hellfire R9X is an advanced missile that cuts through its targets with deadly precision without causing collateral damage.

The US announced that it had finally eliminated Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a challenging military action in Kabul.

But, what really drew all the attention was the weapon involved in the operation – the Hellfire R9X missile. This latest version of the Hellfire is a high-end weapon only used in special circumstances to eliminate prominent individuals without leaving collateral damage.

What is known about this missile? How does it work? How deadly is it?


The top-notch Hellfire missiles

Hellfire Drill
Hellfire Drill by Sean Evans. Public Domain.

The Hellfire missile is a precise and devastating weapon that has been used extensively in combat operations since the 1980s. 

Initially developed for use against tanks and other armored vehicles, the Hellfire has proven to be an effective weapon against various targets, including buildings, bunkers, and even people.

When used against vehicles, the Hellfire can penetrate armor up to three feet thick. When used against buildings, the Hellfire’s blast radius is large enough to collapse an entire structure. 


While the Hellfire has been used mainly by helicopter gunships, now it can also be fired from unmanned vehicles and with higher accuracy than ever before due to numerous upgrades over the years.

An AGM-114 Hellfire missile
An AGM-114 Hellfire missile by nara.getarchive.net. Public Domain

Despite its effectiveness, the first version of the Hellfire missile has come under criticism for its high civilian casualty rate. So, it was updated with the ability to accurately target individuals or small groups of people.

The new Hellfire R9X missile is safer and more effective

The Hellfire R9X missile is an air-to-ground weapon designed to be highly accurate and to penetrate buildings or vehicles to destroy targets without harming nearby civilians. 


The most exciting feature of this missile is its kinetic power and innovative technology. The missile has a set of blades that deploy from the side of the warhead just before impact, slicing through the target and further reducing the risk of collateral damage. 

It’s like being attacked by a giant blender – And thanks to its accuracy, the Hellfire R9X has become one of the most effective weapons in the US military’s arsenal. It minimizes collateral damage and inflicts as much damage as possible to the target. 

In addition to its blades, the Hellfire R9X uses a multi-stage guidance system designed to hit targets with incredible accuracy.


The first stage of the guidance system uses GPS to identify the target location, while the second stage uses lasers to guide the missile to its destination. 

This two-stage guidance system ensures that the Hellfire R9X can hit its target even if there is movement or interference. 

The most precise drone strike to knock out al-Zawahiri

Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser and purported successor Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview in Afghanistan, Barack Obama
Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri by Hamid Mir. Licensed under CC by 3.0

The MQ-Reaper was the drone employed by the US military forces. It is a very reliable unmanned aircraft armed with the Hellfire R9X. 


On July 31, 2022, an MQ-Reaper strike killed the leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The strike targeted a house, where al-Zawahiri was hiding.

Once the drone spotted Ayman al-Zawahiri, the missile was launched along with a laser guidance system, which headed straight for the target… He died immediately. 

Al-Zawahiri’s death was a major victory in the war on terrorism, and it dealt a significant blow to Al-Qaeda’s ability to operate and plan any future attack.


Hellfire R9X is capable of crushing and cutting into pieces its targets without harming civilians

This missile is a sophisticated weapon that represents the pinnacle of hellfire missiles. It is capable of causing tremendous damage to its targets without affecting bystanders or surrounding buildings.

This makes it the ultimate weapon for surprise attacks, and it can be launched at very long distances from an MQ-Reaper that is unnoticeable to its target.

It is a clear message to the leaders of terrorist groups, who will now have fewer opportunities to hide.


Featured image credit: Hellfire Brian Ferguson. Public Domain.