APKWS, developed by BAE Systems in partnership with the U.S. government, 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.
In a series of shots fired during the weeks of Jan. 11 and 18, Marine AH-1W Cobra helicopters flying a variety of scenarios fired laser-guided APKWS rockets at targets typical of those encountered in theater. Live warheads were fitted to the APKWS guidance section, and in day and night tests, the guided rockets struck their laser-designated targets and detonated on impact.
"The APKWS operational assessment has demonstrated the system's effectiveness in a variety of scenarios involving various targets, platform speeds, ranges, and tactics," said Maj. Matt Sale, requirements officer for Marine Corps Aviation Weapons. "The system's reliability has been proven with its 19-for-19 performance in tests, exceeding requirements and expectations. We are confident that APKWS is the right-size weapon for many of our typical engagements and will be highly effective in allowing Marine aviators to prosecute targets."
The final step in the APKWS development program is system qualification against the envelope of environments in which it might be employed, transported, and stored. That testing is expected to be finalized in time to allow the Navy to complete a production decision within the next 60 days. From there, the system is expected to enter low-rate initial production.
"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 missiles and munitions for BAE Systems in Nashua, New Hampshire. "This weapon will make a real difference in allowing U.S. warfighters to complete their missions and come home safely."
APKWS provides the military with a low-cost alternative to other air-launched munitions currently in inventory. The system transforms a standard 2.75-inch unguided rocket into a smart, highly precise laser-guided missile. Because it uses standard launchers, APKWS requires no platform integration or aircraft modifications, and because it is loaded and fired like a standard 2.75-inch rocket, it requires little additional aviator or ordnance crew training. The mid-body design of its guidance section enables use of existing warheads, fuzes, and rocket motors, enhancing the capability of existing inventory.
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. On Jan. 4, the U.S. Navy published its intent to ask BAE Systems to study the use of APKWS on fixed-wing platforms through a joint cooperative technology demonstration program with the U.S. Air Force.
The Navy assumed acquisition executive oversight of the program in 2008 and has fully funded it for production. BAE Systems has been the APKWS prime contractor since 2006.
About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is a premier global defense, security and aerospace company delivering 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. With approximately 105,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded £18.5 billion (US $34.4 billion) in 2008.