Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System

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1)top picture: standard Hydra-70 2)bottom picture: APKWS
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service2012-present
Used bySee Future and potential users
Production history
ManufacturerBAE Systems
Unit cost$22,000[1]
No. built50,000[2]
Mass32 lb (15 kg)[3]
Length73.8 in (1.87 m)[3]
Diameter2.75 in (70 mm) (unfired)[4]

Muzzle velocity1,000 m/s (3,600 km/h; 2,200 mph; Mach 2.9) at max[4]
Effective firing range1,100–5,000 m (0.68–3.11 mi) (rotary wing);
2–11 km (1.2–6.8 mi) (fixed wing)[5][3]

Maximum speed 2,425 ft/s (739 m/s)[6]
Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker
See Launch platforms

The AGR-20 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is a design conversion of Hydra 70 unguided rockets with a laser guidance kit to turn them into precision-guided munitions (PGMs).[7] APKWS is approximately one-third the cost and one-third the weight of the current inventory of laser-guided weapons, has a lower yield more suitable for avoiding collateral damage, and takes one quarter of the time for ordnance personnel to load and unload.


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.[8]

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 unguided rocket, converting it into a precision guided munition and demonstrating the technology can be used on other rocket types than the Hydra 70.[8]


U.S. Marines of the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 demonstrating the conversion of a Hydra 70 into a APKWS II and loading into a Bell AH-1Z Viper.

The winning bidder for the APKWS II contract was the team of BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics,[9] beating the offerings from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Systems.[10]

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. They are 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.[5]

Firing ranges are 1,100-5,000 meters, the former of which can be hit less than 5 seconds after firing.[5] 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 extend range while retaining accuracy.[11] Nammo is working on a modified rocket motor that can extend range to 12–15 km (7.5–9.3 mi).[12]

A software upgrade of the APKWS will be applied starting in late 2021; the upgrade increases range by 30% by means of an optimized flight trajectory to engage targets at a steeper angle of attack, while also being qualified on both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in a single variant and improving the surface danger zone logic for better training range options.[13][14]

In June 2021, BAE successfully tested the APKWS in a counter-unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS) role. An APKWS-equipped rocket was fitted with a proximity fuze and destroyed a Class 2 UAS. The proximity fuze enables it to intercept UAS at a lower cost than other methods, and due to the rocket's laser guidance that activates on launch it does not require locking on to the target before launch.[15][16]


  • Length: 73.8 in (1.87 m)[3]
  • Diameter: 2.75 in (70 mm)[4]
  • Wingspan: 9.55 in (24.3 cm)[4]
  • Weight: 32 lb (15 kg)[3]
  • Speed: 1,000 m/s (3,600 km/h; 2,200 mph; Mach 2.9) at max[4]
  • Range: 1,100–5,000 m (0.68–3.11 mi) (rotary wing); 2–11 km (1.2–6.8 mi) (fixed wing)[5][3]
  • Guidance: Semi-active laser homing
  • CEP: <0.5 meters[3]
  • Motor: Existing Hydra 70 motors
  • Warhead: Existing Hydra 70 warhead

Program status[edit]

  • 2002: APKWS development test series begins.[17]
  • April 2005: General Dynamics APKWS program cancelled due to poor test results.[18]
  • September 2005: Successful flight test of BAE APKWS II.[19]
  • October 2005: Competition re-opened as APKWS II.[18]
  • April 2006: BAE Systems selected as prime contractor for the APKWS II program.[20]
  • February 2007: Funding for program withdrawn in proposed FY2008 budget.[21][22]
  • May 2007: Successful flight test of BAE APKWS II in production-ready configuration.[23]
  • November 2008: Transfer of contract from US Army to US Navy.[24]


  • 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.[25]
  • 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.[26]
  • September 2012: The Navy awards a contract to officially integrate the APKWS into the Fire Scout.[27]
  • October 2012: BAE announces its intention to modify the APKWS II to be fired from fixed-wing tactical fighter platforms.[28]
  • January 2013: Additional conversion kits ordered. No in flight failures during the 100 combat launches in Afghanistan to date.[29]
  • 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.[30]
  • March 2013: APKWS is integrated onto the Bell 407GT.[31]
  • 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 Mk152 high explosive and MK149 flechette warheads. The UH-1Y had the boats designated by an MH-60S.[32]
  • 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.[33]
  • March 2014: LAU-61 G/A Digital Rocket Launcher (DRL) deployed with HSC-15.[34]
  • 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."[35]
  • 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.[36][8]
  • 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. All 10 rockets struck within a metre of the laser spot.[8]
  • October 2015: US Army AH-64 Apache helicopters to field weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan.[37]
  • March 2016: First rocket variants for launch from fixed-wing aircraft shipped to Marine Corps Harriers.[38]
  • June 2016: APKWS deployed on USAF F-16 and A-10 as part of an urgent operational requirement.[39][40]
  • October 2016: Production rate increased to 5,000 a year.[41]
  • June 2016-January 2017: 200 APKWS used against ISIL targets, including 60 during the Battle of Mosul.[42]
  • February 2018: First operational deployment of APKWS on Marine Corps legacy F/A-18 Hornets.[43]
  • December 2019: US Air Force demonstrates air-to-air capability of AGR-20A to cue off Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod and intercept low-flying cruise missiles.[44]

In December 2019, the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin AFB, Florida, conducted a test using APKWS rocket against a drone representing a cruise missile. By adapting the rocket for cruise missile defense, it can serve the same role as the much more expensive AIM-120 missile, according to an Air Force release. "The test was unprecedented and will shape the future of how the Air Force executes CMD," Col. Ryan Messer, commander of the 53d Wing at Eglin, said in a release. "This is a prime example of how the 53d Wing is using resources readily available to establish innovative ways that enhance combat capabilities for our combat units."[45]

In June 2020, BAE announced they had completed test firings of the APKWS from a ground launcher for the first time. Several rockets were fired from an Arnold Defense-built launcher called the Fletcher designed specifically for ground vehicles, demonstrating the weapon's ability to address a demand for standoff ground-to-ground precision munitions for small ground units.[46][47]

Foreign users[edit]

On 14 April 2014, the U.S. Navy signed an agreement with the Jordanian Air Force for the first international sale of the APKWS for use on the CN-235 gunship.[48] Jordan received 110 units in late November 2015.[49]

In November 2014, the State Department approved the sale of up to 2,000 APKWS rockets to Iraq.[50]

In June 2015, a deal to sell 6 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to the Lebanese Air Force was approved that included the sale of 2,000 APKWS rockets for use on the turboprops. The US$462 million sale was financed by Saudi Arabia.[51][52]

In April 2018, The U.S. State Department approved the future sale of APKWS units to the Mexican Navy at the same time that they approved the sale of eight MH-60R helicopters.[53]

Ukraine is being supplied with APKWS rockets following the 2022 Russia invasion of Ukraine.[54][55] As part of an aid package announced by the U.S. in August 2022, the L3Harris Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment (Vampire) system will be sent to Ukraine. The system consists of a sensor ball and a four-barreled APKWS rocket launcher that can be mounted on trucks. While it can direct laser-guided rockets on ground targets, the Pentagon specified it as a counter-UAS system.[56] The kit could be ready by May 2023.[57]

Launch platforms[edit]

APGWS II launched from SH-60S/MH-60S Seahawk

See also[edit]


  1. ^ US DoD Contracts for June 27, 2018
  2. ^ APKWS Upgrade Extends Range By 30 Percent: BAE. Breaking Defense. 3 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "APKWS II Update" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-12-15. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
  4. ^ a b c d e Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System Archived November 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine -
  5. ^ a b c d Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II) Goes to War -, 9 July 2012
  6. ^ BAE Systems adapts rocket to provide soldiers with their own air support. New Atlas. 1 June 2020.
  7. ^ "APKWS® Laser-Guided Rocket".
  8. ^ a b c d e Stevenson, Beth (13 April 2015). "APKWS hits 10-for-10 in rocket tests from Australian Tiger". Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  9. ^ "U.S. ARMY SELECTS BAE SYSTEMS FOR APKWS II CONTRACT - BAE". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2011-10-27.
  10. ^ APKWS II: Laser-Guided Hydra Rockets in Production At Last
  11. ^ BAE Conducts First APKWS Flight Test on Aussie Helo; U.S. Army Contract Expected Soon -, 27 April 2015
  12. ^ New rocket launcher for combat vehicles makes Middle East debut. Defense News. 10 May 2018.
  13. ^ Next-generation BAE Systems APKWS guidance kits improve rocket range and impact. Air Recognition. 3 August 2021.
  14. ^ "BAE Systems enhances APKWS II range by 30%". Jane's Information Group. 16 August 2021. Archived from the original on 21 August 2021.
  15. ^ BAE Systems successfully tests APKWS laser-guided rockets against UAS. Air Recognition. 12 October 2021.
  16. ^ BAE Looks to Adapt Rocket to Counter-UAS Mission. National Defense Magazine. 12 October 2021.
  17. ^ "APKWS II - Deagel". Archived from the original on 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2006-09-30.
  18. ^ a b Air-Launched 2.75-Inch Rockets - Designation Systems
  19. ^ BAE SYSTEMS 70MM LASER-GUIDED ROCKET ACHIEVES TWO DIRECT HITS - BAE Archived October 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ APKWS II "Hellfire Jr." Hydra Rockets Enter SDD Phase
  21. ^ Army Proposes Major Weapons Cuts -
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2007-02-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) US Army 2008 R&D Budget Request (Page 4)
  23. ^ "BAE SYSTEMS CONDUCTS SUCCESSFUL TEST OF ADVANCED PRECISION KILL WEAPON SYSTEM - BAE PR". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  24. ^ "BAE SYSTEMS PRECISION-TARGETED WEAPON DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM NOW LED BY U.S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  25. ^ a b Marine helicopters deploy with laser-guided rocket Archived 2012-10-03 at the Wayback Machine -, 17 April 2012
  26. ^ Eshel, Tamir. "APKWS Enters Full Rate production." Defense Update, 13 August 2012.
  27. ^ BAE Systems to Integrate Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System on MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV -, September 18, 2012
  28. ^ BAE to demonstrate APKWS on fixed-wing aircraft -, October 23, 2012
  29. ^ "BAE gets more work for laser-guided missiles." -, 15 January 2013
  30. ^ A-10 Fires First-Ever Laser-Guided Rocket Archived July 1, 2013, at the Wayback Machine -, April 3, 2013
  31. ^ a b c d BAE’s APKWS rockets integrated on Bell’s new Model 407GT -, March 5, 2013
  32. ^ BAE’s APKWS rocket validates strike capabilities against maritime targets -, April 10, 2013
  33. ^ APKWS Laser-Guided Rocket Successfully Qualified on US Army Apache Helicopters -, 22 October 2013
  34. ^ Scott, Richard (31 March 2014). "USN adds anti-FIAC capability to MH-60S to meet urgent operational need". IHS Jane. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  35. ^ Interest grows in APKWS -, 17 July 2014
  36. ^ Australia tests BAE's Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System -, 14 October 2014
  37. ^ "U.S. Army Acquires APKWS™ Laser-Guided Rockets for Immediate Deployment". BAE. 13 October 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  38. ^ BAE's APKWS rockets go to war on AV-8B Harrier -, 31 March 2016
  39. ^ a b "U.S. Air Force Deploys APKWS Laser-Guided Rockets on F-16s". BAE. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  40. ^ a b APKWS deployed on USAF F-16 -, 9 June 2016
  41. ^ Stevenson, Beth (19 October 2016). "BAE to up the pace on APKWS production". RBI. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  42. ^ US Forces Bank on New Weapon to Protect Civilians in Next Mosul Battle -, 1 February 2017
  43. ^ USMC & NAVAIR Complete First F/A-18 / APKWS Operational Flights. Navy Recognition. 23 April 2018.
  44. ^ "F-16 downs drone during cruise missile defense testing". Air Force News Service. December 26, 2019. Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  45. ^ Air Force Magazine Dec 2019
  46. ^ BAE successfully tests ground-launched APKWS rockets for first time. Defense News. 1 June 2020.
  47. ^ BAE Systems completes first firing tests of ground-launched APKWS rockets. Army Recognition. 3 June 2020.
  48. ^ a b Jordan Equips CN-235 Gunship with APKWS 2.75″ Guided Rockets -, 1 May 2014
  49. ^ Navy delivers first APKWS units to Jordan Archived December 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine -, 30 November 2015
  50. ^ Iraq orders 2,000 BAE Systems' Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems for its Air Force -, 13 November 2014
  51. ^ Lebanon Getting Armed Super Tucanos Despite Instability
  52. ^ US approves possible $462M A-29 Super Tucano sale to Lebanon -, 10 June 2015
  53. ^ - April 2018, NavalToday
  54. ^ UK Goes For The Kill! Plans To Equip Ukraine With Lethal Anti-Ship Missiles To End Russian Naval Blockade. Eurasian Times. 8 April 2022.
  55. ^ Ukraine to receive thousands of APKWS II smart rockets from the United States.. Military Cognizance. 11 May 2022.
  56. ^ ‘Vampire’ to transform Ukraine pickups into deadly missile launchers. C4ISRNET. 25 August 2022.
  57. ^ "Ukrainian forces poised to be first to operate the L3Harris VAMPIRE". Janes Information Services. 26 August 2022. Archived from the original on 27 August 2022.
  58. ^ Trimble 2011-11-10T16:00:00+00:00, Stephen. "BAE guided rocket clears tests with US Marine Corps UH-1Y helicopter". Flight Global. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  59. ^ BAE, Raytheon Advance Laser Rocket Business -, 8 May 2014
  60. ^ Navy outfitting more Seahawks with digital rocket launchers Archived September 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine -, 7 April 2015
  61. ^ "USMC Fields APKWS II Laser-Guided Rockets with its AV-8B Harriers Aircraft". Navy Recognition. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  62. ^ Rogoway, Tyler. "Those Old OV-10 Broncos Sent To Fight ISIS Were Laser Rocket-Slinging Manhunters". The Drive. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  63. ^ "F-16 downs target drone with laser guided rocket in unprecedented test". Air Combat Command. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
  64. ^ Osprey Fires Guided Rockets And Missiles In New Trials -, 8 December 2014
  65. ^ Lebanon – A-29 Super Tucano Aircraft] - Defense Security Cooperation Agency, 9 June 2015
  66. ^ U.S. Marines to Retire Harrier Fleet Earlier Than Planned, Extend Life of Hornets Archived 2014-11-18 at the Wayback Machine -, 3 November 2014

External links[edit]