The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a laser-guidance platform from BAE Systems, scored four hits in four shots during the final phase of testing. APKWS adds precision laser guidance capabilities to 2.75 inch rockets—specifically, those found in attack helicopters.
The APKWS uses a form of the semi-active laser seeker known as DASALS (distributed aperture semi-active laser seeker). Installed between the warhead and the Hydra 70 rocket motor, the seeker aperture is divided into four elements, and each element is placed on the four wings of the guidance section.
Little modification is required for the APKWS. According to the company, “the system requires no platform integration or aircraft modifications, and the mid-body design of its guidance section enables use of existing warheads, fuzes, and rocket motors.” APKWS can be fired from any helicopter that can launch 2.75-inch rockets, including the AH-1 Cobra, UH-1 Huey, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, and AH-64 Apache.
Michelle McBride, co-project manager for the Navy's Airborne Rockets group, mentioned that, “The Navy is very pleased that APKWS has entered the final phase of testing and that we are nearing a Milestone C decision.” The Milestone C decision means that the system is ready for low-rate initial production. APKWS is the only laser-guided 2.75-inch rocket undergoing this full U.S. government evaluation.
APKWS couldn’t be timelier. Today’s enemy doesn’t play by our rules—insurgents use human shields, hide among the populace, and launch attacks from urban centers. In this vein, General Stanley McChrystal issued a highly-controversial memo banning close air support (CAS) except under “very limited and prescribed conditions.” APKWS probably won’t change policy, but it could go a long way towards limiting collateral damage.