BAE Systems has been busy negotiating a full-rate production contract this week for its advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS), which was fielded by the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan this spring after years of development and testing. The guidance kit is being advanced for use on other airborne platforms, for larger weapons and for different warheads.
The APKWS converts the Hydra 70-mm unguided rocket into a precision-guided munition through the addition of the WGU-59/B midbody guidance and control section, developed byBAE. The WGU-59/B adds a distributed-aperture, semi-active laser seeker, and the weapon is flown to the target by wings with flaperons that deploy after launch. The weapon was fielded by the Marines in Afghanistan in March on AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1Y Huey helicopters.
The U.S. Navy awarded BAE a low-rate initial production contract for the APKWS in September 2010 and has delivered 1,000 systems in two lots, according to Stephen Scalera, director of business development for electronic systems survivability and targeting solutions. The company was in negotiations with the navy for full-rate production of the weapon, Scalera said Tuesday during a briefing here at the Farnborough International airshow.
Under a contract from the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, Northrop Grumman is integrating the APKWS on the MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV, which would be the service’s first sea-based unmanned system to carry weapons. The Navy is also exploring the use of the APKWS for overwater deployment. “All I can tell you is they’ve had good results,” Scalera said.
The APKWS was in development for 17 years and originally was a joint U.S. Army and Navy program. The weapon has also been fired from the army’s OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter. Scalera said the guidance section can be scaled for larger weapons and can accommodate several different warheads. In April, BAE test-fired the APKWS with a M282 penetrator warhead at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. During the tests, the weapon penetrated a triple brick wall and an M114 armored personnel carrier.
BAE said the APKWS is not intended to replace unguided rockets for area suppression or the Hellfire missile for anti-armor operations, rather it fills a gap between the two weapons. Scalera said the APKWS is the only deployed guided rocket program of record, and with its midbody guidance section differs from competing systems with front-mounted seekers.