Tests have confirmed that the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) -- a small, laser-guided rocket traditionally fired from military helicopters -- is also safe to launch from various fixed-wing aircraft, the U.S. Navy announced Oct. 15.
A recent “technology demonstration” used an APKWS variant specifically designed for the faster and higher flight environment of fixed-wing aircraft. The variant was successfully fired from the A-10 Thunderbolt II, AV-8B Harrier II and F-16 Fighting Falcon, showing it is a good fit for such fixed-wing platforms, the Navy said.
A fixed-wing APKWS appeals to the military because it could allow more shots against ground targets in a single mission. In a single launcher, a fixed-wing aircraft could carry seven guided rockets that weigh less than one 500-pound bomb. Officials also believe the relatively small warhead of the BAE Systems-built APKWS has the potential to reduce “collateral damage,” or harm to non-combatants.
The military is now considering whether it should buy the variant in significant quantities and ultimately field it with operational forces.
"The completion of these tests and the conclusion of the [technology demonstration] was a significant step towards demonstrating the operational effectiveness for an affordable, fixed wing, forward firing, air-to-ground, low collateral weapon in support of the close air support mission," said Capt. Al Mousseau, who runs the Navy's Direct & Time Sensitive Strike Weapons Program Office.
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