A high-payoff target, also known as an HPT, is a high-value target whose loss to the enemy will significantly contribute to the success of a friendly course of action. Also called HVT, the loss of high-value targets would be expected to seriously degrade important enemy functions throughout the friendly commander’s area of interest.
The term has been widely used in the news media for Osama Bin Laden and high-ranking officers of Al-Qaeda. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was known as High Value Target Number One by the United States military before his capture.
The use of high-value targeting (HVT)—using military and police forces to kill or capture leaders of insurgent and terrorist groups—has increased exponentially since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. HVT operations have become the primary tool of the United States for combating Al Qaeda and its affiliates worldwide, and these operations have eliminated scores of terrorists and insurgents from the battlefield.
Increasingly Drone Strikes’ are being used to Kill High-Value Targets. For almost two decades now, drones have been the primary weapon involved in U.S. counterterrorism operations, with the American military steadily escalating its employment of drone strikes in insurgent sanctuaries throughout the Middle East and Asia. And it has proven an effective tool. Simply put, the unmanned aerial vehicle has become the ultimate, lethal weapon for identifying and eliminating the world’s most dangerous terrorists, in some of the most rugged and inaccessible terrain on the planet.
Drone strikes have also been relatively effective at limiting collateral damage compared to other strike options—reducing deaths among both civilians on the ground as well as U.S. servicemembers who might otherwise take part in a ground raid. However, the drone program has usually been criticized for its lack of transparency and for the civilian casualties it causes. Therefore more and more precise missiles are being developed to keep lowering civilian casualties.
Reports suggest the strike against Zawahiri was the latest, and by far the most high-profile, in a growing number of drone strikes employing the Hellfire AGM-114 R9X “ninja missile,” which, rather than delivering an explosive payload, releases six knives moments before impact to slash and crush the target.
Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian major general, was also killed by the U.S. in 2020 using the same missile. A result of the U.S. government’s desire to limit civilian casualties in counterterrorism strikes, the R9X has previously been used to assassinate terrorist leaders in Syria and Yemen.
Hellfire R9X Ninja Missile, ‘Secret Weapon’ Used By US To Kill Al Qaeda Chief Zawahiri
United States President Joe Biden announced in July 2022 that leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman-al-Zawahiri had been eliminated in a targeted drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kabul. Considered as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks along with the then Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, Zawahiri was in the list of America’s “most wanted terrorists”. He had taken charge of the terror outfit in 2011 after Bin Laden was killed by the U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan’s Abbottabad.
As news agency Agence France-Presse has reported, Zawahiri was attacked with two missiles when he was standing on a balcony in his safe house in Kabul. However, the video clips released by the U.S. administration show no signs of explosion. U.S. security officials have also said that there was no collateral damage reported after the attack on Zawarihi.
Hellfire R9X is the latest addition to the AGM-114 Hellfire missile lineage. Hellfires are air-to-ground missiles with laser guidance technology. The subsonic missiles, that is travelling at speeds lower than the speed of sound, posses significant anti-tank capacity. The fleet of Hellfire missiles has different variants based on the warhead, guidance system and physical variations.
The R9X varient of Hellfire missiles is said to have six razer like blades mounted as the warhead. The blades pop out just before striking the target and slice into the body. As there is no explosion in the process, the missile ensures minimal collateral damage while eliminating the target with precision.