Moving to obtain the Boeing Apache airworthiness qualification for its Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), BAE Systems took the missile to the U.S. Army for test firing at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The APKWS is a 2.75-inch (70 mm) laser-guided rocket which offers a more precise weapon that the current unguided 2.75-inch Hydra 70 rockets mounted on Apache, yet would be much less expensive to use that heavier guided weapons in use such as the Hellfire.
During the test, the Apache AH-64D fired eight missiles, which was enough to meet the airworthiness requirements. According to the company, the test firing was conducted at airspeeds up to 150 knots, up to five kilometers from the target and from altitudes of between 300 to 1,500 feet.
BAE Systems APKWS rocket test on an Apache. Photo courtesy of BAE Systems
David Harrold, BAE Systems’ director of precision guidance solutions, confirmed that “the APKWS rocket has now been successfully tested on almost a dozen fixed and rotary wing platforms.” He noted that “the final shot from the Apache hit within inches of the laser spot – despite the rocket and warhead being visibly scorched from two adjacent firings.”
The APKWS was fielded by the U.S. Marine Corps in March 2012, principally for its Northrop Grumman unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout, but the weapon has also been qualified for use on its Bell AH-1W attack and UH-1Y utility helicopters. The guidance system is located between the rocket motor and the warhead.
BAE Systems reports that USMC has already fired the missile from its UH-1Ys in a maritime scenario with laser designation provided by a Sikorsky MH-60S Sea Hawk.
The concept of APKWS dates back to 2002 and BAE Systems conducted its first test flight of the weapon in September 2005. Take up by the U.S. Army has been delayed by a lack of budget. The new APKWS II is available to international customers through the U.S. government’s foreign military sales (FMS) process.
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