The APKWS is one step closer to protecting men and women in combat.

The successful shots, which took place at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, California, Sept. 9-13, mark the start of APKWS testing on the UH-1Y, and are part of the program’s low-rate initial production phase.

Developed by BAE Systems in partnership with the U.S. government, the APKWS semi-active laser guidance section integrates with existing 2.75-inch rocket motors and warheads, giving aviators a highly precise weapon that is effective against soft and lightly armored targets while minimizing collateral damage. BAE Systems designed the system’s laser guidance and control section.

During the tests, Marine pilots fired a total of six shots from a UH-1Y against stationary targets with ranges varying from 1.5 to 5 kilometers. The initial shots from UH-1Y mark the first time a MK152 warhead has been fired from any aircraft, allowing safer operation aboard ships than the previous M151 warhead.

“I am very excited to bring this new capability to our Marines in combat,” said Captain Brian Corey, Program Manager, PMA-242. “This highly effective weapon will allow aviators to complete their missions while minimizing the risk of harm to allies and non-combatants."

APKWS brings three essential operational benefits to those in combat. First, the BAE Systems guidance section is designed for compatibility with current 2.75-inch rocket motors, warheads, and fuzes, enhancing the capability of the existing 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.

“BAE Systems is focused on getting APKWS to the warfighter next year,” said John Watkins, director of Missile & Munitions Solutions in Nashua, where the system’s laser guidance and control section is built. "APKWS will provide an evolutionary step in the lethality and utility of the UH-1Y. For the first time, the UH-1Y will have the ability to autonomously provide precision guided munitions, dramatically increasing its effectiveness against armored and reinforced targets while decreasing collateral damage."

The Navy assumed acquisition oversight of the APKWS program in 2008. In addition to its planned use on rotary-wing platforms, the Navy has entered into a Joint Concept Technology Demonstration program with the U.S. Air Force to evaluate the suitability of APKWS for fixed-wing platforms.

APKWS entered the first phase of production testing at China Lake’s facility last month. A launcher successfully fired two laser-guided rockets and hit a stationary target. The test firings initiated a sequence of tests that allow the Navy to accept the guidance sections for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, the final test phase prior to fielding the system.

Initial Operating Capability of APKWS on the Marine Corps AH-1W and UH-1Y helicopters is scheduled for the spring of year 2012.

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Nicole Gable
Nicole Gable
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