Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System
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 APKWS has also been successfully tested in live fire exercises with the Forges de Zeebrugge (FZ) unguided rocket, converting it into a precision guided munition and demonstrating the technology can be used on other rocket types than the Hydra 70.
The APKWS II uses the Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) technology. 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.
The APKWS II system is composed of the launch platform, rockets equipped with the WGU-59/B mid-body guidance unit, the lengthened 7-tube LAU-68 F/A rocket launcher, the SCS 7 aiming cue (not needed for attack helicopters), and Fastpack PA-140 and CNU-711/E storage kits for rockets and guidance kits, respectively, to ensure they are safe in the field. The WGU-59/B mid-body guidance unit is equipped with DASALS seeker optics which deploy 0.5 seconds after launch and is attached in between the Mk 66 Mod 4 rocket motor and a warhead and fuze, which increases length by 18.5 in (47 cm) and weight by 9 lb (4.1 kg) over the legacy Hydra system. Firing ranges are 1,100-5,000 meters, the former of which can be hit within less than 5 seconds after firing. Maximum range is constrained by use of the existing Hydra 70 motor, but since the seeker can see as far as 14 km (8.7 mi), a more powerful motor could extended range while retaining accuracy.
- Diameter: 70 mm
- Guidance: Semi-active laser homing.
- CEP: <0.5m
- 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.
- 2002: APKWS development test series begins.
- April 2005: General Dynamics APKWS program cancelled due to poor test results.
- October 2005: Competition re-opened as APKWS II.
- September 2005: Successful flight test of BAE APKWS II.
- April 2006: BAE Systems selected as prime contractor for the APKWS II program.
- February 2007: Funding for program withdrawn in proposed FY2008 budget.
- May 2007: Successful flight test of BAE APKWS II in production-ready configuration.
- November 2008: Transfer of contract from US Army to US Navy.
- March 2012: APKWS II achieves initial operating capability (IOC) and is sent to Afghanistan with United States Marine Corps. Plans are to integrate it onto the MQ-8 Fire Scout.
- 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. 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.
- October 2012: BAE announces its intention to modify the APKWS II to be fired from fixed-wing tactical fighter platforms.
- January 2013: Additional conversion kits ordered. No in flight failures during the 100 combat launches in Afghanistan to date.
- 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.
- March 2013: APKWS is integrated onto the Bell 407GT.
- 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.
- 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.
- March 2014: LAU-61 G/A Digital Rocket Launcher (DRL) deployed with HSC-15.
- 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." BAE expressed confidence that the US Army would order APKWS in 2015, most likely for its Apaches.
- August 2014: APKWS tested on Australian Army Eurocopter Tiger at Woomera Test Range. 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.
- November 2014: APKWS tested on Australian Army, 16 Aviation Brigade, Eurocopter Tigers, this time airborne, near Darwin. Tests included using APKWS to convert a Forges de Zeebrugge (FZ) unguided rocket into a laser precision-guided weapon. Of the ten rockets were fired, all struck within a metre of the laser spot.
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.
In November 2014, the State Department approved the sale of up to 2,000 APKWS rockets to Iraq.
- Current rotary wing:
- Planned rotary wing
- Planned fixed-wing
- Low-Cost Guided Imaging Rocket
- Direct Attack Guided Rocket
- Guided Advanced Tactical Rocket - Laser
- Roketsan Cirit
- List of laser articles
- Stevenson, Beth (13 April 2015). "APKWS hits 10-for-10 in rocket tests from Australian Tiger". Flightglobal.com. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- U.S. ARMY SELECTS BAE SYSTEMS FOR APKWS II CONTRACT - BAE
- APKWS II: Laser-Guided Hydra Rockets in Production At Last
- Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II) Goes to War - Defensemedianetwork.com, 9 July 2012
- BAE Conducts First APKWS Flight Test on Aussie Helo; U.S. Army Contract Expected Soon - News.USNI.org, 27 April 2015
- APKWS II - Deagel
- Air-Launched 2.75-Inch Rockets - Designation Systems
- BAE SYSTEMS 70MM LASER-GUIDED ROCKET ACHIEVES TWO DIRECT HITS - BAE
- APKWS II "Hellfire Jr." Hydra Rockets Enter SDD Phase
- Army Proposes Major Weapons Cuts - military.com
-  US Army 2008 R&D Budget Request (Page 4)
- "BAE SYSTEMS CONDUCTS SUCCESSFUL TEST OF ADVANCED PRECISION KILL WEAPON SYSTEM - BAE PR".
- "BAE SYSTEMS PRECISION-TARGETED WEAPON DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM NOW LED BY U.S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS".
- Marine helicopters deploy with laser-guided rocket - NAVAIR.Navy.mil, 17 April 2012
- Eshel, Tamir. "APKWS Enters Full Rate production." Defense Update, 13 August 2012.
- BAE Systems to Integrate Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System on MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV - sUASNews.com, September 18, 2012
- BAE to demonstrate APKWS on fixed-wing aircraft - Flightglobal.com, October 23, 2012
- "BAE gets more work for laser-guided missiles." - Unionleader.com, 15 January 2013
- A-10 Fires First-Ever Laser-Guided Rocket - AF.mil, April 3, 2013
- BAE’s APKWS rockets integrated on Bell’s new Model 407GT - Flightglobal.com, March 5, 2013
- APKWS Demonstrates Anti-Ship Capability In Maritime Testing - Seapowermagazine.org, April 10, 2013
- APKWS Laser-Guided Rocket Successfully Qualified on US Army Apache Helicopters - Deagel.com, 22 October 2013
- Scott, Richard (31 March 2014). "USN adds anti-FIAC capability to MH-60S to meet urgent operational need". www.janes.com. IHS Jane. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
- Interest grows in APKWS - Shephardmedia.com, 17 July 2014
- Stevenson, Beth (21 July 2014). "FARNBOROUGH: BAE bullish about APKWS purchase for US Army". Flight Daily News.
- Australia tests BAE's Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System - UPI.com, 14 October 2014
- Jordan Equips CN-235 Gunship with APKWS 2.75″ Guided Rockets - Defense-Update.com, 1 May 2014
- Iraq orders 2,000 BAE Systems' Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems for its Air Force - Airrecognition.com, 13 November 2014
- BAE, Raytheon Advance Laser Rocket Business - Ainonline.com, 8 May 2014
- Navy outfitting more Seahawks with digital rocket launchers - NAVAIR.Navy.mil, 7 April 2015
- Osprey Fires Guided Rockets And Missiles In New Trials - Aviationweek.com, 8 December 2014
- U.S. Marines to Retire Harrier Fleet Earlier Than Planned, Extend Life of Hornets - News.USNI.org, 3 November 2014
- APKWS - BAE
- Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) - BAE Systems
- Hydra-70 Rockets: From Cutbacks to the Future of Warfare - Defense Industry Daily
- Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System - Defense Update
- Laser Guided APKWS II Rockets for USMC Harrier, Air Combat Command’s Warthog - Defense-Update
- Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) - Global Security
- BAE Systems' video of APKWS on YouTube