Raytheon and Emirates Advanced Instruments (EAI) have completed environmental and flight tests of the Talon laser-guided rocket, opening the way for production. The weapon grew out of Raytheon’s work during the APKWS II program, and has been continued with a co-development agreement with EAI.
The Talon comprises a new “front-end” laser guidance package with pop-out control fins that can be attached to either an existing or new-build warhead/motor package based on the Hydra 70 unguided rocket. It has been tested during several campaigns since 2009, and in late 2010 and early 2011 it was fired from United Arab Emirates Apaches.
The latest round of tests was conducted at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, with a U.S. Army AH-64D Apache and crew. These trials involved 10 flights with the final production standard of weapon, and involved a range of shots against moving and stationary targets designated by a variety of air and ground sources. Ranges varied from 6 km down to 1.2 km, and all hit within lethal radius. Some shots involved a live warhead.
With the weapon qualified on the AH-64 Apache the path is clear for production to begin for the UAE armed forces. At present EAI is working within the overall UAE program to formulate when that will start, but a go-ahead is expected in the next two or three months.
Although production processes remain subject to change, it is envisioned that Raytheon will initially produce the entire guidance package, although production of this element could transfer incrementally to EAI. One element that will remain within Raytheon’s domain, at least for the time being, is the seeker head, production of which is not exportable.
The UAE has not decided yet whether it will build new “back-end” warhead/motor sections, upgrade existing Hydra 70 stocks, or procure a mix of both.
Qualification of the Talon on the Apache opens up a number of opportunities in the region, including for Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the weapon has U.S. approval for export to certain nations. The Talon can also be fired by other helicopter types, and has been demonstrated to the U.S. Army, being fired from a Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.