Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System

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APKWS missile

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is a laser guided missile which is compatible with existing Hydra 70 unguided rocket launchers and components in service.


Where possible the system utilizes existing Hydra 70 components such as launchers, rocket motors, warheads and fuzes. The weapon bridges the gap between the Hydra 70 and AGM-114 Hellfire systems and provides a cost-effective method of engaging lightly armored point targets. APKWS is the U.S. government’s only program of record for the semi-active, laser-guided 2.75-inch (70 millimeter) rocket. It converts the Hydra 70 unguided rocket into a precision guided munition through the addition of a mid-body guidance unit developed by BAE Systems.


The winning bidder for the APKWS II contract was the team of BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics,[1] beating out the offerings from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Systems.[2]

The APKWS II shares the Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) technology with the XM395 mortar round. This system allows a laser seeker to be located in the leading edge of each of the forward control canards, working in unison as if they were a single seeker. This configuration allows existing warheads from the Hydra 70 system to be used without the need for a laser seeker in the missile nose.


  • Diameter: 70 mm
  • Guidance: Semi-active laser homing.
  • CEP: <0.5m[3]
  • Motor: Existing Hydra 70 motors.
  • Warhead: Existing Hydra 70 warheads.
  • Unit cost: ~ $28,500
  • APKWS is a “plug and play,” “point and shoot” weapon, and is fired like the unguided 2.75-inch rocket. The weapon is easily assembled and can be shot with minimal instruction, as if it were an unguided rocket.

Program status[edit]

  • 2002: APKWS development test series begins.[4]
  • April 2005: General Dynamics APKWS program cancelled due to poor test results.[5]
  • October 2005: Competition re-opened as APKWS II.[5]
  • September 2005: Successful flight test of BAE APKWS II.[6]
  • April 2006: BAE Systems selected as prime contractor for the APKWS II program.[7]
  • February 2007: Funding for program withdrawn in proposed FY2008 budget.[8][9]
  • May 2007: Successful flight test of BAE APKWS II in production-ready configuration.[10]
  • November 2008: Transfer of contract from US Army to US Navy.[11]


  • March 2012: APKWS II achieves IOC and is sent to Afghanistan with USMC. Plans are to integrate it onto the MQ-8 Fire Scout.[12]
  • July 2012: BAE Systems receives full-rate production contract for APKWS from the U.S. Navy. The first FRP deliveries were in October 2012 and the company expected the next FRP option to be awarded by the end of 2012.[13] APKWS is approximately one-third of the cost and one-third of the weight of the current inventory of laser-guided weapons in use by U.S. forces, and a lower yield weapon suitable for tighter spaces. The APKWS takes one quarter of the time for ordnance personnel to use (load and unload the weapon). It has been deployed to Afghanistan and is being successfully used in theatre today by USMC personnel.
  • September 2012: The Navy awards a contract to officially integrate the APKWS into the Fire Scout.[14]
  • October 2012: BAE announces its intention to modify the APKWS II to be fired from fixed-wing tactical fighter platforms.[15]
  • January 2013: Additional conversion kits ordered. No in flight failures during the 100 combat launches in Afghanistan to date.[16]
  • February 2013: APKWS launched from an A-10 Thunderbolt II. Three sorties were conducted. The first sortie carried the rocket and launcher, and the second sortie fired an inert, unguided rocket to ensure the weapon would separate from the aircraft. Two armed rockets were fired during the third sortie from 10,000 and 15,000 feet. The second rocket launched into a 70 knot headwind, and both impacted within inches of the target. The Air Force is considering using the APKWS II operationally by 2015 if further testing is successful.[17]
  • March 2013: APKWS is integrated onto the Bell 407GT.[18]
  • April 2013: A UH-1Y Venom fired 10 APKWS rockets at stationary and moving small boat targets, scoring 100 percent accurate hits on single and multiple targets over water. The engagement ranged from 2–4 km using inert warheads, Mk152 high explosive warheads, and MK149 flechette warheads. The UH-1Y had the boats designated by an MH-60S.[19]
  • October 2013: APKWS successfully fired from an AH-64 Apache. Eight rockets were fired with the helicopter flying at up to 150 kn (170 mph; 280 km/h) and up to 5 km (3.1 mi) from the target. Launch altitudes ranged from 300 ft to 1,500 ft. BAE wants airworthiness qualification on the Apache for international sales to AH-64 operators.[20]
  • March 2014: LAU-61 G/A Digital Rocket Launcher (DRL) deployed with HSC-15.[21]
  • July 2014: BAE reveals that the APKWS has reached Early Operational Capability (EOC) with one squadron of MH-60S helicopters. The MH-60R will be outfitted within "12-18 months."[22] BAE expressed confidence that the US Army would order APKWS in 2015, most likely for its Apaches.[23]
  • October 2014: APKWS tested on Australian Army Eurocopter Tiger. A helicopter was on the ground and fired seven rockets which successfully hit their targets. The rocket could enter Australian service by early 2015 on army Tigers and navy MH-60R helicopters.[24]


On 14 April 2014, the U.S. Navy signed an agreement with the Jordanian Air Force for the first international sale of the APKWS. The rockets will be used on the CN-235 gunship and begin delivery in 2016.[25]

Launch platforms[edit]

See also[edit]


  2. ^ APKWS II: Laser-Guided Hydra Rockets in Production At Last
  3. ^
  4. ^ APKWS II - Deagel
  5. ^ a b Air-Launched 2.75-Inch Rockets - Designation Systems
  7. ^ APKWS II "Hellfire Jr." Hydra Rockets Enter SDD Phase
  8. ^ Army Proposes Major Weapons Cuts -
  9. ^ [1] US Army 2008 R&D Budget Request (Page 4)
  12. ^ a b Marine helicopters deploy with laser-guided rocket -, 17 April 2012
  13. ^ Eshel, Tamir. "APKWS Enters Full Rate production." Defense Update, 13 August 2012.
  14. ^ BAE Systems to Integrate Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System on MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV -, September 18, 2012
  15. ^ BAE to demonstrate APKWS on fixed-wing aircraft -, October 23, 2012
  16. ^ "BAE gets more work for laser-guided missiles." -, 15 January 2013
  17. ^ A-10 Fires First-Ever Laser-Guided Rocket -, April 3, 2013
  18. ^ a b c d BAE’s APKWS rockets integrated on Bell’s new Model 407GT -, March 5, 2013
  19. ^ APKWS Demonstrates Anti-Ship Capability In Maritime Testing -, April 10, 2013
  20. ^ APKWS Laser-Guided Rocket Successfully Qualified on US Army Apache Helicopters -, 22 October 2013
  21. ^ Scott, Richard (31 March 2014). "USN adds anti-FIAC capability to MH-60S to meet urgent operational need". IHS Jane. Retrieved 2 April 2014. 
  22. ^ Interest grows in APKWS -, 17 July 2014
  23. ^ Stevenson, Beth (21 July 2014). "FARNBOROUGH: BAE bullish about APKWS purchase for US Army". Flight Daily News. 
  24. ^ Australia tests BAE's Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System -, 14 October 2014
  25. ^ a b Jordan Equips CN-235 Gunship with APKWS 2.75″ Guided Rockets -, 1 May 2014
  26. ^ Osprey Fires Guided Rockets And Missiles In New Trials -, 8 December 2014
  27. ^ U.S. Marines to Retire Harrier Fleet Earlier Than Planned, Extend Life of Hornets -, 3 November 2014

External links[edit]