The first live firings of the Hellfire missile in the UK have been carried out by Apache helicopters carrying out training on board Portsmouth-based HMS Illustrious.
Two Apaches from 656 Squadron Army Air Corps fired one Hellfire missile each at a training target that was positioned by HMS Illustrious in the sea off northern Scotland where the ship is taking part in the multinational Exercise Joint Warrior.
The weapon, which has only previously been used in combat by British forces in Afghanistan and Libya, was fired for the first time in UK waters.
The firings also allowed the crew of HMS Illustrious to practise safely delivering the missiles from the ship’s weapon magazines to the helicopters on the flight deck.
Captain Martin Connell, commanding officer of the Portsmouth-based helicopter carrier, said: ‘The Hellfire missile firings conducted from HMS Illustrious once again proved, as HMS Ocean did so effectively last year off Libya, that the potent combination of Apache helicopter and Hellfire missile can be successfully delivered by a UK warship at sea.’
Major Piers Lewis, who commands 656 Squadron, said: ‘The Army Air Corp’s Apache crews are comfortable operating in all environments and this has once again demonstrated our ability to fire Hellfire from sea having launched from HMS Illustrious.
‘The Army Air Corps and Squadron forged excellent links with HMS Ocean last year - and are now forging similarly strong links with Illustrious.’