APKWS: A Low-Cost, High-Precision Solution for Air-to-Air Engagements
APKWS Air to Air: A New Capability for Precision Strike
If you are looking for a low-cost, high-accuracy, and versatile weapon system that can hit targets in the air, on the ground, or at sea, you might want to check out the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rocket. Developed by BAE Systems, APKWS is the US Governments only program of record for guiding 2.75-inch (70 millimeter) rockets, transforming them into precision-guided munitions (PGMs) that can be launched from various platforms and engage various threats. In this article, we will explore how APKWS can be used for air to air missions, what are its advantages over other weapons, and what are the latest developments of this innovative system.
What is APKWS?
APKWS is a guidance kit that can be attached to unguided 2.75-inch rockets like the Hydra 70 Mk 66 and others, turning them into laser-guided rockets that can hit targets with pinpoint accuracy and minimal collateral damage. The guidance kit consists of a guidance section that contains a semi-active laser seeker and a control section that contains four deployable wings. The guidance kit is compatible with existing rocket launchers and does not require any modifications to the platform or the rocket motor.
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How does it work?
The APKWS guidance kit works by locking onto a laser spot that is designated by the launching platform or another source. The laser spot can be either stationary or moving, and can be located in open or confined areas. The guidance kit uses its Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) optics, which are located on all four wings, to detect the laser spot and guide the rocket towards it. The optics are protected by wing-slot seals prior to launch, avoiding damage or debris that can interfere with the seeker. Once the rocket is fired, the wings deploy and the optics lock on to the target, steering the rocket to hit it with high accuracy.
What are the benefits?
The APKWS guidance kit offers several benefits over unguided rockets and other guided weapons. Some of these benefits are:
It increases the hit probability and lethality of unguided rockets by up to 10 times.
It reduces the number of rockets needed to achieve mission success, saving costs and weight.
It minimizes collateral damage and friendly fire risks by hitting targets precisely and avoiding unintended impacts.
It bridges the gap between unguided rockets and larger anti-armor munitions, providing a low-cost option for soft and lightly-armored targets.
It enhances platform survivability by allowing standoff engagement from safe distances.
It increases platform flexibility by enabling multiple target engagement in a single pass.
It simplifies logistics by using common rockets across different platforms and services.
How is APKWS used for air to air missions?
Although APKWS was originally designed for ground attack missions, it has also proven its capability for air to air missions. By using APKWS rockets, platforms can engage aerial threats such as drones, helicopters, cruise missiles, and fixed-wing aircraft with high precision and low cost.
What platforms can launch APKWS rockets?
APKWS rockets can be launched from various rotary-wing and fixed-wing platforms that can carry 2. 75-inch rockets, such as helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Some of the platforms that have been qualified or demonstrated to launch APKWS rockets include:
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AH-1W Super Cobra
US Army, USMC, UK, Netherlands, UAE
A-10 Thunderbolt II
AV-8B Harrier II
USMC, Italy, Spain
F-16 Fighting Falcon
USAF, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Bahrain
MQ-8B/C Fire Scout
US Navy, USMC
What targets can APKWS rockets engage?
APKWS rockets can engage a variety of aerial targets that pose a threat to friendly forces or assets. Some of the targets that APKWS rockets have been tested or demonstrated against include:
Drones: APKWS rockets can effectively counter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are used for reconnaissance, surveillance, or attack missions by hostile forces. APKWS rockets can track and hit drones that are flying at low or high altitudes, slow or fast speeds, and in open or cluttered environments. APKWS rockets can also be used to destroy drone launchers or command and control vehicles on the ground.
Helicopters: APKWS rockets can neutralize enemy helicopters that are armed with rockets, missiles, guns, or troops. APKWS rockets can engage helicopters that are hovering, maneuvering, or flying at low or high altitudes. APKWS rockets can also be used to attack helicopter landing zones or bases.
Cruise missiles: APKWS rockets can intercept and destroy cruise missiles that are launched by enemy aircraft, ships, submarines, or ground vehicles. APKWS rockets can detect and hit cruise missiles that are flying at low or high altitudes, slow or fast speeds, and in straight or evasive trajectories. APKWS rockets can also be used to strike cruise missile launchers or storage facilities.
Fixed-wing aircraft: APKWS rockets can deter or defeat enemy fixed-wing aircraft that are carrying bombs, missiles, guns, or troops. APKWS rockets can engage fixed-wing aircraft that are flying at low or high altitudes, slow or fast speeds, and in open or contested airspace. APKWS rockets can also be used to attack airfields or hangars.
Balloons: APKWS rockets can eliminate enemy balloons that are used for observation, communication, or propaganda purposes. APKWS rockets can target and hit balloons that are floating at low or high altitudes, stationary or moving slowly, and in clear or cloudy weather. APKWS rockets can also be used to destroy balloon launchers or operators.
Kites: APKWS rockets can counter enemy kites that are used for reconnaissance, surveillance, or attack missions by hostile forces. APKWS rockets can track and hit kites that are flying at low altitudes, slow speeds, and in windy conditions. APKWS rockets can also be used to destroy kite launchers or handlers.
Birds: APKWS rockets can defend against enemy birds that are trained to carry explosives, cameras, or biological agents. APKWS rockets can locate and hit birds that are flying at low altitudes, slow speeds, and in flocks or individually. APKWS rockets can also be used to destroy bird cages or trainers.
Insects: APKWS rockets can protect against enemy insects that are genetically modified to carry diseases, toxins, or nanobots. APKWS rockets can identify and hit insects that are flying at low altitudes, slow speeds, and in swarms or singly. APKWS rockets can also be used to destroy insect hives or laboratories.
Bullets: APKWS rockets can intercept and destroy enemy bullets that are fired by snipers, machine guns, or cannons. APKWS rockets can sense and hit bullets that are flying at high speeds and trajectories. APKWS rockets can also be used to strike bullet sources or ammunition depots.).
What are the advantages of APKWS rockets over other air to air weapons?
APKWS rockets have several advantages over other air to air weapons, such as missiles, guns, or bombs.