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The US military’s Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) has successfully tested BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guidance kits in a counter-unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) configuration, BAE Systems announced on 28 March 2023.

During a US Department of Defense-led exercise at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in late January/early February, the 70 mm APKWS-guided rockets were tested against Class-2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) travelling at more than 100 miles an hour, with their counter-UAS capability facilitated by the use of a newly developed proximity fuze for the rockets’ standard M151 warhead. This allows the APKWS rockets to target Class 2 and Class 3 UAVs, which typically weigh less than 25 kg (55 lb), said BAE Systems. The tests demonstrated 100% effectiveness, according to BAE.

The new fuze thus enables APKWS-equipped rockets to engage and destroy small UAVs at a fraction of the cost of existing C-UAS systems. The fuze retains its legacy point denotation capability, maintaining maximum flexibility for the weapon in the field, BAE noted.

An APKWS-guided rocket fired from a tactical vehicle. The US military’s Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office has successfully tested BAE Systems’ APKWS laser-guidance kits in a C-UAS configuration. (Image: BAE Systems)

The APKWS C-UAS solution is platform agnostic, allowing multiple options to accelerate fielding.

“Our engineers’ passion for APKWS technology led to the development of this new product designed to meet drones head-on,” Aimee D’Onofrio, a director of Precision Guidance and Sensing Solutions at BAE Systems, was quoted as saying in a company press release. “This is a solution that comes at a remarkably affordable price point, and with APKWS already at full-rate production, we can ramp up to 25,000 units per year to make an immediate impact.”

APKWS transforms unguided rockets into smart munitions for precision strikes, typically against soft and lightly armoured targets. The APKWS laser-guidance kits are produced at BAE Systems’ manufacturing facility in Hudson, New Hampshire. The kits are available to all US armed forces, as well as allies via the Foreign Military Sales mechanism.

The successful testing against Class-2 UAVs paves the way for fielding of the precision-guided rockets to the US military and partner nations around the globe, said BAE.

A spokesperson for BAE Systems told ESD on 28 March that the company is “looking to partner with a service” to qualify the system.

Peter Felstead