U.S. Army Plans First Deployment of Laser-Guided Rocket

 - October 14, 2015, 10:04 AM
An AH-64 Apache attack helicopter is shown firing the laser-guided Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. (Photo: BAE Systems)

The U.S. Army has procured "an initial quantity" of laser-guided rockets for ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, marking the service’s first planned deployment of the weapon, according to manufacturer BAE Systems. The Army is expected to immediately equip AH-64 Apache attack helicopters with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), the company said.

The APKWS is a mid-body, semi-active laser guidance section that converts a standard 2.75-inch rocket into a precision-guided munition. It is available at a fraction of the cost and weight of existing laser-guided weapons, BAE claims. Designed initially to meet Army requirements, the system transferred to Navy oversight in 2008.  

The Marine Corps, which uses the rocket on AH-1 Super Cobra and UH-1Y Huey helicopters, has deployed the system in combat since 2012. Last year, the Navy said it would fit MH-60 Seahawk helicopters with a new digital rocket launcher that supports the APKWS.

The Army has previously acquired APKWS units for testing purposes, but the acquisition announced on October 13 during the Association of the U.S. Army conference is the service’s first acquisition for operational use, BAE said. The Army will draw from the current Navy inventory for the initial quantity, while also working with BAE and the Navy “to secure additional rockets to meet ongoing demands,” the company added.

“With a long track record of success with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we are confident that the U.S. Army will greatly benefit from this highly accurate, low-collateral-damage system,” said David Harrold, BAE Systems director of precision guidance solutions. “Providing these weapons to our soldiers by leveraging a current program of record should be used as an example for other services and allied countries looking for this precision strike capability.”

BAE has manufactured 5,000 units of the APKWS, which is in its third year of full-rate production. The rocket has been qualified or demonstrated on a dozen rotary- and fixed-wing platforms, including the unmanned MQ-8B Fire Scout.