The U.S. Marine Corps will initially deploy APKWS from AH-1W Cobra helicopters.
"Any time I have the opportunity to talk to our men and women in uniform, I hear about the pressing need for the capability afforded by APKWS," said John Watkins, director of missile and munitions solutions for BAE Systems in Nashua, New Hampshire, where the guidance section is built. "With the signing of this LRIP contract, we're one step closer to protecting those men and women in combat."
Developed by BAE Systems in partnership with the U.S. government, APKWS provides aviators with a highly precise weapon that is effective against soft and lightly armored targets while minimizing collateral damage - important in urban areas and other situations in which non combatants or friendly forces are near hostile targets. BAE Systems designed the system's laser guidance and control section.
The U.S. Navy declared that the system is ready for production in April. The decision, known as "Milestone C (MS C)," was approved following a rigorous series of flight, component, and all up-round qualification tests. With the completion of the development program and the Navy's MS C decision, APKWS has been established as the U.S. Navy's Program of Record to meet warfighter urgent requirements for a laser-guided 2.75-inch rocket.
The final series of flight tests, which culminated in a perfect 8-for-8 score in a series designed and conducted by Marine test pilots, demonstrated that the system's accuracy exceeds government requirements. Throughout its eight-year history of flight tests, APKWS has hit the intended targets an average distance from the center of the laser spot less than two meters. In both developmental testing and operational assessment, APKWS was fired off U.S. Marine Corps AH-1W Cobra helicopters.
APKWS brings three essential operational benefits to those in combat. First, the BAE Systems guidance section is designed to be compatible with current 2.75-inch rocket motors, warheads, and fuzes, enhancing the capability of the existing approximately 100,000-unit inventory of unguided rockets. Second, the system provides the lowest collateral damage for precision engagement, while at the same time giving the military greater flexibility to engage the enemy. Finally, the unit cost is on track to meet the Navy's objective against lower value targets.
The Navy assumed acquisition executive oversight of the APKWS program in 2008 to complete the System Development and Demonstration phase prior to the MS C decision. In addition to its planned use on rotary-wing platforms, the Navy has entered into a Joint Cooperative Technology Demonstration program with the U.S. Air Force to evaluate the suitability of APKWS for fixed-wing platforms.
Full-rate production of the system is expected to follow from mid-to late 2012, and may entail the expansion of existing BAE Systems production facilities, depending on demand.
BAE Systems has been the APKWS prime contractor since 2006.
BAE Systems is a global defense, security and aerospace company with approximately 107,000 employees worldwide. The Company delivers a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, security, information technology solutions and customer support services. In 2009 BAE Systems reported sales of £22.4 billion (US$ 36.2 billion).