BAE Systems, one of the largest defense companies in the world, successfully tested a ground version of its popular Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS).
First introduced in the early 2010s, the APKWS is able to convert unguided rockets into precision-guided munitions. BAE Systems achieved that conversion with the addition of a laser guidance kit to the unguided munition. The most common unguided rocket to be converted is the Hydra 70. But the conversions aren’t limited to that. Seventeen international aerial platforms (fixed-wing and rotary-wing) are able to field the APKWS.
These are the rotary-wing qualified platforms: AH-64D/E Apache, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper, AH-6 Little Bird, AH-1F Cobra, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, UH-1Y Venom, IA-407 Bell, MH-60S/R Knighthawk, Seahawk, UH-60L/M Blackhawk, ARH Tiger
These are the fixed-wing qualified platforms: F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier, A-208 Combat Caravan, A-29 Super Tucano, A-10 Thunderbolt, OV-10 Bronco.
All of the U.S. military branches (sans the Space Force) have utilized the APKWS operationally in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
A ground version of the APKWS will offer flexibility and independence to ground elements since they would be able to target with precision soft targets at medium distances without the need to call air support. Currently, ground units have to rely on the FGM-148 Javelin to achieve similar results. A fire-and-forget rocket, the Javelin is quite effective and accurate and has been used to great success in Afghanistan where the engagement distances often surpass the effective range of small arms.
In a press release, BAE System’s director of Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions, Greg Procopio, said that “Our customers see the value in low-cost, precision-strike capabilities that reduce the risk of collateral damage, and they want the flexibility to deliver them from the platform of their choice. Demand is growing for ground-to-ground precision munitions that provide a safe standoff distance for small ground units. We’re working closely with our customer and partners to deliver that capability.”
The test took place in the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground. In addition to BAE Systems, the Navy and Arnold Defense were also involved. Arnold Defense provided its FLETCHER 2.75-inch/70mm Weapon System kit to test the APKWS. FLETCHER is a laser-guided rocket launcher for ground vehicles.
“We designed FLETCHER specifically as a ground launcher for precision-guided 70mm rockets,” said Jim Hager, the president and CEO of Arnold Defense. “FLETCHER-launched APKWS rockets enable our military customers to engage targets from more than just airborne platforms. We envision FLETCHER being used on everything from trucks and tracked vehicles to marine platforms in the future.”
BAE Systems prides itself that its APKWS weapon system is one of the most accurate in the market that consistently hits its intended target without any significant collateral damage.