An advanced precision kill weapons system with an M282 warhead detonates inside an armored personnel carrier. (BAE Systems)
WASHINGTON — US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed last month that it had successfully tested the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) this year on fixed-wing aircraft, and that it had wrapped up the joint capability technology demonstration (JCTD) on the rocket system.
The tests included both ground launches and aerial launches from the A-10 Thunderbolt, AV-8B Harrier and F-16 combat jets, according to information provided by the US Navy.
Capt. Al Mousseau, program manager for the Navy’s Direct & Time Sensitive Strike Weapons Program Office, said the completion of the tests “was a significant step toward demonstrating the operational effectiveness for an affordable, fixed-wing, forward-firing, air-to-ground, low-collateral weapon in support of the close-air support mission.”
The success of the tests “means that an aircraft pilot will be able to carry seven guided rockets in one launcher that weigh less than a single 500-pound bomb, allowing for more shots in a single sortie,” Bill Hammersley, the JCTD technical manager, said in a statement.
The BAE Systems-made APKWS reached another milestone Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, when the rocket was fired from an Apache attack helicopter for the first time in Yuma, Ariz., nailing a perfect eight for eight score in hitting within 1 meter of the target from a distance of 1,500 meters to five kilometers at speeds of up to 150 knots, according to the company.
“With the Apache demonstration, the APKWS rocket has now been successfully tested on almost a dozen fixed- and rotary-wing platforms,” David Harrold, director of precision guidance solutions at BAE Systems, said in a statement.
“The final shot from the Apache hit within inches of the laser spot — despite the rocket and warhead being visibly scorched from two adjacent firings,” Harrold said. “This latest test demonstrates the precision and advanced capability that a guided 2.75-inch rocket will bring to Apache aviators.”
Company representatives added that to demonstrate ease of integration on existing platforms, the APKWS rocket was installed on the Apache without modification to the platform or software.
The US Marines have been using the APKWS in combat in Afghanistan and have fired more than 110 of the missiles.
While primarily a US Navy and Marine Corps program, the US Army has also been looking at the capability for use by its Apache fleet, which is why BAE conducted the tests in September.
While the Army has yet to purchase any of the rockets, BAE officials are looking at a host of overseas customers who have been in talks to acquire the system.
The company says it hopes that NATO and allied nations that fly the Boeing-made Apache — such as Saudi Arabia, the UK, Israel, Singapore, Greece, Japan and the Netherlands — will find room in their budgets in coming years to add the precision system to their arsenals.