BAE Systems has launched its Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) guided rocket from the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter for the first time.
The company carried out a series of trials at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., in early September in conjunction with the U.S. Army to obtain an airworthiness qualification on the Apache to aid future international sales campaigns.
The company says the system was installed on the Apache without any modifications to the aircraft or its software and the final of eight shots launched by the Apache hit “within inches” of the laser spot, despite the rocket and warhead being “visibly scorched from two adjacent firings.”
The APKWS takes a 2.75-in. unguided rocket and modifies it with a guidance system fitted to the nose. Once fired, four spring-loaded vanes open revealing the laser seekers, which then look for the splash of a laser on the target. The weapon can potentially be fired from any helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft capable of firing 2.75-in. rockets.
The trials saw the Apache firing the guided rockets at a range of flight configurations with airspeeds up to 150 kt., and at distances of up to 5 km from the targets. Engagements were carried out between 300 and 1,500 ft.
News of the Apache firings comes weeks after U.S. Central Command released a military utility assessment report on the weapon giving the green light for a modified version to be used on fast jet aircraft, following a U.S. Navy-led Joint Capability Technology Demonstration firing of the APKWS from the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the AV-8B Harrier and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The weapon is already in service with the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan, where it is fitted to the Bell UH-1Y Venoms and AH-1W Cobras serving with the helicopter attack squadrons there.
BAE Systems believes the Apache trials could pave the way for international sales of the system to other Apache operators. Trials with the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior are also forthcoming.