BAE Systems has entered the final phase of testing on its Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a technology that increases the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of airborne weapon systems. The tests seek to confirm the production readiness of the APKWS rocket and its ability to meet Navy and Marine Corps requirements, including safely launching from a helicopter, and reliably acquiring, tracking, and hitting laser-designated targets.
In the most recent testing, a laser-guided rocket fired from a U.S. Marine Corps Cobra helicopter hit a stationary target. This test firing initiated a sequence of more than 20 firings that will comprise the program’s final test phase, to be completed by the end of the year. Following this contractor test flight, BAE Systems and the Navy are preparing for the final weapon qualification testing, leading to a production decision in 2010.
Although multiple vendors are offering similar capabilities, BAE Systems expects to become the only fully-qualified laser-guided 2.75-inch rocket in the U.S. inventory, said John Watkins, director of the company’s missile and munitions solutions. Since the beginning of the developmental test series in September 2002, the guided rocket was tested 18 times, including five shots from helicopters involving several air crews and various mission scenarios. APKWS can be fired from any helicopter that can launch 2.75-inch rockets, including the AH-1 Cobra, UH-1 Huey, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, and AH-64 Apache.
The low-cost, low-yield precision munition system turns a standard 2.75-inch unguided rocket to a smart, highly precise laser-guided missile. Because it uses standard launchers, the system requires no platform integration or aircraft modifications, and the mid-body design of its guidance section enables use of existing warheads, fuses, and rocket motors.