Iraq Wants Thousands More Hellfire Missiles


The government of Iraq plans to buy several thousand more Hellfire missiles made by Lockheed Martin Corp. in what would be its largest-ever purchase of the weapon.

The Defense Department’s notification of the sale to Congress this week comes as the Shiite-led government in Baghdad is trying desperately to thwart advances made by the Sunni-led Islamic extremist group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL (also known as ISIS), which now controls vast swaths of the northern and western part of the country and areas in Syria.

The State Department has approved the sale, would include 5,000 AGM-114K/N/R Hellfire missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $700 million, according to a Pentagon press release. Congress has a month to block the deal.

“Iraq will use the Hellfire missiles to help improve the Iraq Security Forces’ capability to support current on-going ground operations,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in Tuesday’s release. “Iraq will also use this capability in future contingency operations. Iraq, which already has Hellfire missiles, will have no difficulty absorbing these additional missiles into its armed forces.”

The Iraqi military has already received most of a previous order for 500 Hellfire missiles. The Iraqi air force has fired the weapon from AC-208 Cessna Caravan aircraft.

The 100-pound air-to-ground missile carries a 20-pound warhead designed to destroy armored vehicles such as tanks and other fortified targets. It can be launched from both fixed and rotary wing aircraft, including AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, as well as KC-130J and Cessna planes.

The U.S. has also supplied Iraq with small arms, tanks and other vehicles. Lockheed Martin Corp. earlier this month delivered the first of a planned 36 F-16 Block 52 fighter jets to the Iraqi air force under a $3 billion deal, though the aircraft isn’t scheduled to arrive in the country until September. The delay prompted Baghdad to expedite purchases of Russian aircraft, including Su-25 fighter jets and Mi-28 and Mi-35 helicopters.

The Obama administration has deployed a few hundred military advisers to Iraq to help the military there gather intelligence on the insurgency. It also requested $1.5 billion in funding from Congress to help stabilize Syria, some of which would presumably be used to target ISIL in Iraq.

Even so, Iraqi leaders are pleading for more military aid.

“We desperately need United States assistance to turn the tide,” Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S., said on Tuesday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, according to Press TV, the Tehran-based broadcaster. “We believe that immediate and increased military assistance, including targeted air strikes, are crucial to defeat this growing threat.”

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the administration’s funding request for the so-called Syria Stabilization Initiative didn’t include any details.

“I thought our Ranking Member said it well when he told senior defense officials that we want to be supportive, but sell us – give us something to work with,” he said during a hearing on Tuesday, referring to Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington.

Steven Biddle, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, said the worst course of action the U.S. could take would be to offer Iraq unconditional military aid.

“This is likely to reinforce Baghdad’s worse instincts, to lengthen rather than shorten the war by forcing the Sunni community to dig in its heels and defend itself against what it will feel as a threat of extermination, and it risks mission-creep and entrapment without meaningful upsides,” he said at the hearing. “If we’re unwilling to be systematically conditional, staying out [of the conflict] would be better than that.”

Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the U.S. should consider another military intervention in Iraq — despite the unpopularity of returning American troops to the country — and warned against the risks of not doing so.

“The fact that the situation looks dire does not mean that we do not have options,” he testified before the panel. “It does not mean that we should just throw up our hands in despair and say, ‘Let them fight it out.’ That is not a good option. We have seen the fight-it-out option play out in Syria, where the result has been more than 170,000 dead people and the destabilization of neighboring regimes.”

In Syria, Boot recommended for the U.S. to do more to train and equip members of the moderate Free Syrian Army, saying the administration’s budget request for the effort is too small and will only train some 2,300 soldiers.

In Iraq, he recommended for the U.S. to encourage Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down, support moderate political factions and consider deploying 10,000 American troops to the country, including trainers and special operations forces.

“I know this is going to be a tough sell,” he said. “I know nobody’s eager to send any troops to Iraq … but I think we have to be realistic and understand that we don’t have any great options here. We have the least bad options. And to my mind the worst option of all is to leave this terrorist caliphate in control of a significant chunk of the Middle East.”

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • iknow

    As predictable as clockwork. And as usual, the word “want” has to be interpreted with the US/neocon/CIA plotted ISIS chaos in mind. Let the plunder of Iraq continue.

    • William_C1

      iknow you need to take your medication before commenting. This is the most stupid CIA conspiracy theory I’ve ever heard.

      • Talosian

        I think Max Boot needs some medication, too.

      • LOL

        Actually William_C1 you should take your medication first and foremost, before you turn on your computer. That way you are more likely to spare us of your idiotic comments.

        ISIS is a product of the US / CIA. That’s why the USSA isn’t doing anything to stop them. People who monitor international affairs have known this for some time now. You should stop posting and spending all your available time reading.

    • Nadnerbus

      Not to be confused with US/neocon/CIA/Jewish/TRex/Wonder Bread conspiracy.

    • LOL

      There is no doubt that the US had a dark hand in creating the ISIS. The UK was involved as well. They are more experienced in using this kind of dirty tricks. Saudi Arabia and Turkey have provided a good chunk of funds.

  • Musson

    Just ship them over a weeks worth at a time. We certainly don’t want large numbers of hellfires in the wrong hands.

    • Nadnerbus

      This gets to a point I wondered about reading the article. How much does the US monitor of know about the supply chain of such weapons after delivery to Iraq? I suspect their are US contractors involved all along the chain so risk is probably somewhat low, but I don’t want to see US weapons being funneled into Iran.

    • sickofthenonsense

      1st order will be a weeks worth.. they will send em all on same week if not day…That should clean up the problem.

  • blight_asdf

    Funny how some nations are buying APKWS…and they want the Hellfires.

    Recall before that they “ran out” of Hellfires…curious how one runs out of Hellfires when ISIS doesn’t even have 500 trucks to its name. And now more.

  • lance

    This trying to send more buckets to a sinking ship face it the Baghdad government will fall. Either ISIS or Iran when they invade to protect Shiite southern Iraq will get our advanced weapons this is a bad idea giving them over to a failed state.

  • rtsy

    Containment seems like the best worst option here, not continued war. Let ISIL have a patch of desert and some weapons and isolate those borders with drones, missiles, SOF, and whatever friends we have left in the region.

    We are still a global power, and we can draw those borders wherever and whenever we want.

  • David

    We should let ISIS get rid of Maliki. He’s even more corrupt that Saddam was.

  • retired462

    OIL (and lots of it) for missiles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Peter

    OK, Elephant in the room time! It was a mistake getting rid of Suddam. Yes, he was a detestable human being, yes, he deserved to die along with his objectionable sons, but what his going achieved? This whole mess we’ve all got now!

    I see no point in selling any more weapons to the Iraq government except for financial profit.Let’s face it their troops are only going to run away again and leave whatever weapons they have for ISIS to pick up and fight with. Iraq is not, and never was, a country. We made that but in reality it’s a collection of several ethnic groups who all ahte each other and will never, ever, work together. In my view, if you want this dangerous (to us in the West!) mess sorted out assist the Kurds. They seem to be the only effective force there, forget whatever passes for an Iraq government.

    • blight_asdf

      “Iraq is not, and never was, a country. We made that”

      Probably more Sykes Picot and the realpolitik that followed when the colonials descended on the carrion of the Ottoman Empire (itself another colonial occupier of sorts only made better by the thin veneer of common religion).

    • dcanaday

      Good point. The winner of the Iraq War was Iran. Saddam and Assad are brutal thugs, but at this point I just don’t have a lot of confidence in Arab societies to form a lasting democratic government. There are certainly a lot of people who want it. The Arab Spring demonstrates that. But any time the people rise up against a despotic ruler, groups like Al Qaeda can be counted on to piggy back onto the movement and put themselves in power. It seems like the best you can hope for is an enlightened despot who will keep the peace, keep gov’t services running, not threaten his neighbors, and only kill those who are a direct threat to him.

      Still, ISIS is not a group that you want to allow to get too powerful. I think we can have meaningful effects on them with a minimal footprint. Some advisors and air support and we can really do a number on them. I’m not saying we will completely defeat them, but we can keep them on the run and busy just trying to survive, as opposed to allowing them to run rampant.

  • johnB

    Using hellfire against infantry is unheard of. And also, if the Iraqi army could stop giving (abandoning) their armours to the isil then they would hell not need the hellfires.

    • blight_asdf

      Haven’t heard too many rumors about tanks.

      Thus far the IS took over one vehicle depot with a mix of AFVs including old Russian-style tanks. Don’t need a Hellfire to take out Toyota trucks. They are learning from American overkill but it may not do them very much good.

    • Annoyed

      OK rocket scientist. They are acquiring three different variants of the AGM-114.
      “K”: with a tandem shaped charge HEAT warhead for use against all types of armor targets
      “N”: with a metal augmented charge (MAC) (thermobaric) warhead for use against enclosures, ships, urban targets, air defense units
      “R”: with an integrated Blast Frag Sleeve (IBFS) (combine blast fragmentation and fragment dispersion) for use against bunkers, light vehicles, urban (soft) targets and caves

    • tmb2

      We’ve done it plenty of times when the bad guys have run into a building. It wouldn’t surprise me if we’ve used hellfires against troops in the open, but at that point we would also have aircraft guns to play with. The Iraqis only have a couple Cessnas with which to fire these missiles, so use what you’ve got.

    • S O

      ATGMs have historically been used more aainst infantry than against tanks – same as bazookas, Panzerfäuste, Panzerschrecke, PIATs, RPGs, recoilless guns…

    • Jack

      look up Apache attacks on YouTube in Afghanistan–lots of hellfires used on infantry.

  • SJE

    I can’t see any problems with this idea. While we are at it, we should also give the Iraqi’s some nukes.

  • NMI

    What does Iraq have that could fire Hellfires?

  • AAK

    So far, has lack of materiel played ANY part in the spread of ISIL? When the Iraqy army outnumbered them 10-1 did they run out of bullets? Were there ISIL tank battalions that were unstoppable?

    Who knows, the missiles might prove useful but first how about a military force that actually wants to use them, and the billions of dollars worth of equipment they already have. How that’s created now given that is what has supposedly been happening for the past decade I don’t know. If you’re going to give some support give it to the kurds first & take it from there.

  • anthony

    No problem at all they have to get Isis down also in Syria, But on supervised conditions.
    For my part use a squadron of A-10 Warthogs they could be very usefull ,,!,,

  • mac

    if we sell the HELLFIRE and Iraq folds does that mean the rest of us get the hell fired back at us???

  • Time to Stop

    Who is more corrupt…….the Iraqi government, our Army and its Generals looking for employment making millions with Lockheed after they retire with a $200K/yr pension and free medical for life (that does pay for a lot of face lifts and breast implants for their wives) or our government who continually lies to us. It is time to stop the insanity of all the corruption but it include the United States where money has clearly become a God even among our top military.

    • dcanaday

      Iraqi gov’t. Final answer.

      • biens

        you do realize that the real government in Iraq is the US government, right?

    • LOL

      the most corrupt: US Congress

      followed by: the CIA

      followed by: the Dept of State

      followed by: the Pentagon

  • herman hill

    the only thing the usa should send to iraq is bodybags that say “made in the usa”!

    • LOL

      yep. I’d suggest adding a small print: “on behalf of Israel” or “by order of Israel”



    Hellfires to get rid of the entire fleet of Humvees and other light infantry vehicles now in the hands of ISIS. Good choice for a fire and forget weapon, but, just make sure they are not used against us or Israel. “YES, ISRAEL”. I think they should send the Hellfires from the air , fired from our Drones only.

  • cybergeek

    Its the religion that led to this mess.