The U.S. government developed a variant of the Hellfire air-to-surface missile designed to target terrorists without explosion and reduce the risk of civilian casualties, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The modified Hellfire missile, also known as R9X, comes with a ring of six blades that can cut through vehicle roofs or buildings to home in on the target. U.S. officials said the Department of Defense used R9X six times in its operations in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
According to WSJ, DoD fired the modified Hellfire in January to target a terrorist in Yemen and a CIA-operated aircraft used the missile against a leader of militant group al Qaeda in Syria in 2017. The development of the Hellfire variant gained momentum during the Obama administration, which announced in 2013 a new policy aimed at avoiding injuries and deaths of civilians in U.S. airstrikes as part of antiterrorism efforts, according to the report.