First Tactical Ground-based Weapon System Test Shots of APKWS Rockets

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By MG Mahmud

BAE Systems has successfully completed stand-off test shots of its APKWS laser-guided rockets from a tactical configuration ground-based weapon system for the first time.

The proof-of-concept testing demonstrated the flexibility of APKWS rockets to deliver standoff precision strike capabilities for mobile ground forces, providing warfighters with a unique solution for engaging targets with greater range than small arms fire and without the need for air support.

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System or APKWS is already used by all four US armed forces. It provides cost-effective, precision-strike capabilities that reduce the risk of collateral damage and is available to US allies through Washington’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, BAE Systems said.

The latest APKWS rocket tests were conducted at the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground, in collaboration with the US Navy and Arnold Defense, a major manufacturer of rocket launchers. The team used Arnold’s FLETCHER 2.75-inch/70mm Weapon System concept – a purpose-built laser-guided rocket launcher for ground vehicles – to fire several successful shots. The ground-launch capability builds on hundreds of successful shots in combat from rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft.

APKWS laser-guided rockets are the only US government programme of record for precision-guided 70-milimeter rockets. BAE Systems’ long-range precision fires solutions use advanced technologies to consistently and effectively hit a variety of targets in complex environments from long distances, resulting in successful land, air and sea missions, a company statement said.

“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,” said Greg Procopio, director of Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions at BAE Systems. “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.”

Ground-launched APKWS rockets could provide mounted and dismounted units with a unique way to engage soft and lightly armored targets from a variety of platforms. The low size, weight, and power requirements of ground-launched APKWS rockets make them ideal for tactical lightweight vehicles, remote weapon stations, non-standard tactical vehicles, and stationary platforms, providing warfighters with precision munitions that improve their safety and mission effectiveness.

“We designed FLETCHER specifically as a ground launcher for precision-guided 70mm rockets,” said Jim Hager, president and CEO at 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.”

Derived from 2.75-inch aerial rockets used during the Vietnam conflict to provide close air support from  both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter gunships, the Hydra 70 rocket is the latest iteration of the 2.75-inch (70 mm) diameter fin-stabilized unguided rocket. The APKWS is an innovative conversion of the Hydra 70 unguided rockets into precision guided munitions (PGMS).  Hydra 70 is widely used by several Asia-Pacific armed forces including Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore .