Watch the Navy Launch a Pirate-Fighting Hellfire Missile


U.S. Navy

In late February, the U.S. Navy test-fired a new Surface to Surface Missile Module for the first time ever, aboard the U.S.S. Detroit*.

The hellfire missile took to the sky off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, but the important thing here is that the Navy also recorded it in ultra, ultra slow motion.

The resulting video is a terrifying and exciting window into what a massively destructive weapon launch looks like. The Navy used a high-speed camera to capture the missile firing, which was a landmark achievement for the military branch’s new Surface Warfare capabilities. The U.S.S. Detroit is a “Littoral Combat Ship,” — stealthy, modular platforms produced at low cost. The Navy thinks of them as the future of sea combat, but critics have noted that the LCS design sacrifices a number of capabilities in favor of flexibility and affordability.

Still, the hellfire launch proved that the LCS’s new module, the SSMM, was in fine working order, adding the system to the Navy’s arsenal, which includes massive rail guns and autonomous helicopters.

“The testing aboard USS Detroit was an important milestone in advancing LCS capability, not only for the LCS community but for the entire fleet,” said Cmdr. Michael Desmond, the Detroit’s commanding officer.

“As small boat threats proliferate, the SSMM will give our ships added lethality,” Desmond says.

What Desmond means by “small boat threats” is pirates, essentially, and the smaller warships of other coastal nations. Besides Russia and China, most of the world’s navies don’t have large warships, and the majority of naval threats come from small patrol boats, pirate skiffs. Non-state actors like pirates and terrorist organizations will rarely have access to large ships, meaning that small SSMM capabilities will make the LCS ships well equipped to handle anything on the float with them.

Still, the hellfire launch proved that the LCS’s new module, the SSMM, was in fine working order. Check out the slow-mo video below.