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.
The company signed a $19.7 million contract with the Navy for the new, 27-month program, which expands the APKWS application from rotary-wing aircraft to the Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II and the U.S Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier fixed-wing aircraft.
The contract calls for analysis and prediction of APKWS performance when launched from the fixed-wing platforms as well as any minor design improvements to support the expanded flight envelope of the higher performance aircraft and reduce the recurring product unit cost.
“This important program will culminate in aircraft flight test firings of 16 performance shots, 14 military utility assessment shots, and the delivery of 50 units for further evaluation of enhanced mission capability,” said Roy Rumbaugh, program manager for BAE Systems in Nashua, New Hampshire, where the APKWS guidance section is built.
The Navy declared APKWS ready for production last April and the Marine Corps will initially deploy APKWS from AH-1W Cobra helicopters.
APKWS is a low-cost alternative to other air-launched munitions currently in inventory. 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, fuses, and rocket motors, enhancing the capability of the existing 100,000-unit inventory of unguided rockets.
APKWS can be fired from any helicopter that can launch 2.75-inch rockets. While the initial platform is the AH-1W Cobra, APKWS also has been successfully demonstrated from a U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa Warrior.
APKWS is the Program of Record established by the U.S. government to meet warfighter requirements for a laser-guided 2.75-inch rocket. 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.