The APKWS – the U.S. government’s only program of record for the semi-active laser-guided 2.75-inch rocket – is expected to be operational in Afghanistan in March.
In the final series of test shots, the laser-guided rockets were fired from a variety of distances from Marine AH-1W and UH-1Y helicopters in scenarios that are expected to be encountered in theater.
“APKWS is a highly effective and affordable weapon that will allow aviators to complete their missions while minimizing the risk of harm to allies and non-combatants,” said Captain Brian Corey, program manager, PMA-242. “We are looking forward to bringing APKWS forward to our Marines in combat.”
The APKWS is a low-cost, low-yield weapon alternative to other air-launched munitions currently in the inventory. The system transforms a standard 2.75-inch unguided rocket into a smart, highly precise laser-guided missile that is effective against soft and lightly armored targets while causing minimal collateral damage.
“APKWS has successfully completed more than 80 shots in the past few months,” said John Watkins, director of Missile & Munitions Solutions for BAE Systems in Nashua, New Hampshire, where the mid-body guidance section is built. “This testing is the culmination of a highly successful development effort among BAE Systems, our partners and suppliers, and the U.S. government. These shots demonstrate that APKWS will make a difference in allowing aviators to do their jobs and come home safely."
The APKWS is an “unpack and shoot” system, Watkins said. Because it uses standard rocket launchers, APKWS requires no platform integration or aircraft modifications, and because it is loaded and fired just like a standard 2.75-inch rocket, very little aviator or ordnance crew training is required. Its design enables the use of existing warheads, fuzes, and rocket motors that currently exist in the inventory.
The APKWS has been demonstrated off Marine AH-1W and UH-1Y helicopters as well as Army Kiowa and light fixed-wing attack aircraft. It can be fired from any rotary-wing aircraft that can launch 2.75-inch rockets, to include the UH-1 Huey and AH-64 Apache. The Navy is also looking to integrate the APKWS – in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force – on fixed-wing AV-8B and A-10 aircraft, as well as the Fire Scout UAS.
The Navy assumed acquisition executive oversight of the program in 2008 and has fully funded it for production. BAE Systems has achieved its monthly delivery rate and more than 400 production systems have been accepted into the Navy inventory under the designation WGU-59/B. BAE Systems has been the APKWS prime contractor since 2006.