Potential damage is also being mitigated through the use of seven-tube pods. In the A-10 trials, one rocket was fired from each tube at 10,000 ft. and then at 15,000 ft. One of the weapons was even fired into 70-kt. crosswinds, and although it missed its target by just inches, it was well within the parameters set by the testing agencies.
The A-10 tests were conducted under a Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration at Eglin AFB, Fla., at the end of February and will be followed by further performance tests, known as Military User Assessments, in the first week of May. Trials will move to the test range at China Lake, Calif, where Air Force pilots will fire another 22 APKWS-IIs from the A-10 and F-16 at both moving and stationary targets.
“In improving rocket accuracy by several orders of magnitude, the APKWS makes the rocket a better weapon for today's low-intensity conflicts, where minimizing collateral damage is a top priority,” says Maj. Travis Burton, the 40th Flight Test Sqdn. pilot who performed the APKWS test flights on the A-10.
BAE Systems is working to decrease the guidance-package cost, now $28,000, but the Navy announced early this month that it is looking to order up to 7,000 in the coming weeks. The manufacturer is in full-rate production and has built more than 1,500 of the kits. Harrold says production levels could be boosted still further, should the capability be adopted for use on other platforms beyond the Marine Corps' UH-1Y Venoms and AH-1W Cobras.
Harrold hopes the Air Force and Navy interest will prompt inquiries from potential foreign military sales customers—and spike interest in the APKWS-II from the U.S. Army as an armament option for its AH-64 Apaches and OH-58 Kiowa Warriors. Trials with the weapon on both helicopters are planned for the summer.
Several laser-guided rocket solutions have been developed in recent years, but so far only APKWS-II has made it into operational service. However, Turkey's Roketsan-built Cirit system has been adopted by the United Arab Emirates for use on its Air Tractor counterinsurgency aircraft and will enter service on Turkey's T129 ATAK helicopters this year.