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Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)

New Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) being developed from modified Vietnam War missile…

BAE Systems have developed a modification for vintage Vietnam War missiles that will allow the military to transform them into modern day precision weapons.

The modified missile, known as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), is 29 percent lighter and 15 percent cheaper to produced than the standard AGM-114 Hellfire missile. The reduce production cost come thanks to a stock pile of vintage-war missiles, as well as an additional guidance system that is easy to install.

Hailed as a plug-in play modification that requires no modification to the aircraft or launcher, the APKWS can convert an unguided hydra rocket into an guided rocket. The system consists of four main components:

  • M423 Fuse
  • M151 Warhead
  • MK66 Mod 4 Rocket Motor
  • WGU-59B Guidance Section

To modify the existing missiles, BAE systems developed a mid-body guidance system that simply in place between the M423 warhead and Mk. 66 Mod. 4 rocket motor. Maj. Ryan Schiller, former lead operational test director for Air Test and Evaluation Squadron-Nine (VX-9) at China Lake, Calif. Naval Air Warfare Center, said:

“On the AH-1W Cobra it will fill the weapons gap between guns and the Hellfire…

“On the UH-1Y it will introduce a precision guided missile capability that is new for the Huey side of the house. The overall result is going to be a higher number of precision kills per sortie, and it will improve aircrew survivability due to increased standoff ranges. It also offers a low-yield weapon for urban conflict where collateral damage has to be minimized.”

The mid-body section has four small wings with flaperon flight-control surfaces on the trailing edge, and an optical sensor on the leading edge of each. Dick Venuti, BAE Systems’ technical director for missiles and munitions solutions, explained:

“The wings provide heavy, stable platforms. When they open and lock, they become an optical bench. The missile’s accuracy depends on how much each wing doesn’t move.”

The technology behind the precision of the missile lies in Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser’s electronics stack and optics system– a package around the size of a soda can with guidance and seeker sensors, connected through four fiber-optic bundles to the optical sensors on each wing.

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) missiles were delivered to the Navy Department in December for testing, and the second batch of 600 will follow later this year.

The low-rate production Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) missiles are expected to be operational on U.S. Marine Corps helicopters in Afghanistan as early as this spring. The next shipment will be sent to directly to the U.S. Marine Corps for shipment to operational units. After operational testing is completed in Jan 2013, a full-rate production of around 1,000 missiles will follow a year later.

Related Posts:


  1. David A. Fulghum: Video: APKWS Goes to War. Ares Defense Blog, Aviation Week, 02/14/2012.
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