The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), developed by BAE Systems, successfully demonstrated its capabilities on fixed-wing aircraft during flight tests conducted at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, US in January 2012.

The test marks the first demonstration of the weapon on fixed-wing aircraft, during which the rocket successfully hit within inches of the centre of its laser spot target following launch from a Hawker Beechcraft AT-6C from a range of three nautical miles.

The flight tests demonstrated the weapon’s unpack and shoot flexibility and also highlighted its potential as a low-cost weapon system for reconnaissance and attack aircraft.

During the tests, the US Air Force (USAF) supplied unguided Hydra rockets that were converted by BAE into APKWS guided munitions, followed by loading onto the aircraft launchers for firing.

An unguided round was also fired from the same launcher prior to the guided rocket shot to demonstrate the APKWS sealed, mid-body design advantage to survive the harsh environment of adjacent rocket firings.

BAE Systems Missiles & Munitions Solutions programme manager Roy Rumbaugh said the user can plug and play with the existing components and point and shoot the weapon system like a regular Hydra rocket.

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Currently, the company is also upgrading the APKWS design for operation in the expanded flight envelopes of high-performance Navy and Air Force aircraft for the Fixed-Wing APKWS Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) programme contract vehicle.

The APKWS, a semi-active laser guided 2.75-inch version of the existing Hydra 70 unguided rocket system, has previously been demonstrated on rotary-wing aircraft, including the AH-1W Cobra and the UH-1Y Huey, as well as on the US Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter.

Since 2006, BAE Systems has been the prime contractor for the APKWS programme.